The SEO Loser Needs YOU!

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Hey guys/girls, as I posted below I was lucky enough to make it to the final 3 in the Party Like a Search Engine Rockstar contest. Now there is a public poll going to help decide who will win-it’s a close race and I could REALLY use your help :). So now I’m asking for a favor from my readers - if you could take a minute to vote for me at (SEO Loser) at http://www.shoemoney.com/2007/11/13/pubcon-roll-with-the-rockstars-finalists/ I’d really, really appreciate it. It would be so cool if I could manage to win this contest. Thanks!

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Common Rockstars! Let a Loser Roll With You

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Update: Made it to the final 3!! If you could drop me a vote, I’d really appreciate it!

[I just read on Shoemoney’s blog that there’s a Party Like a Rockstar Contest being sponsored by Unique Blog Designs and Sure Hits - Here’s my entry :) ]

Earlier today I received one of those e-mails most of us in this industry find in their inbox on a daily basis; a domain renewal notice. What was the domain? SEOLoser.com.

Yep, it’s been a year since I chased around the Rockstars and tried to sneak my way in to parties at PubCon. Time flies.

It was just after PubCon 2006 that I made the first semi-serious blog post of my life–in fact, I registered this domain name at about four in the morning after partying at the conference. The blog basically summed up the awkward, embarrassing, and consistently intoxicated rollercoaster ride I enjoyed at last year’s PubCon, Las Vegas, where I first discovered what I was in this undustry: an SEO Loser. Being my first conference ever, I hadn’t even known there were SEO Losers—but judging by the almost 100 comments the first post I made got, there are actually quite a few of us out there :) .

After my debut at PubCon I was hooked—these conferences are really, really fun—even if you’re a loser. You hang out with cool people who do the same stuff as you. The beer flows like wine and the parties are in some of the coolest venues in Vegas. But on top of the fun-component, I really learn a lot at every single show I attend—sometimes without even going to the sessions. I know everyone preaches the benefits of networking to the point you feel like your ears are gonna start bleeding, but I’ve really seen the results of getting to know a few “Rockstars” first hand. I’ll throw out a couple examples.

I can remember a 10 minute drunken wasted conversation I had with Marcus, the notoriously hilarious (and smart) German blackhat outside a bar at SES NYC just a few months ago. I can’t go into details (Matt Cutts is addicted to my blog, I swear), but I mentioned to him a very unusual and tricky, or even risky, problem I was having with one of my sites that had forced me to pretty much shut it down, even though it would have been making over $100 a day on total autopilot. Marcus instantly fired back with a barrage of ummm…, lets call them “unique” ideas for how I could get around my particular issue.

 

 

At first I laughed, because what he was suggesting seemed so deviously blackhat I couldn’t believe he was serious —but as we talked for the next 5-10 minutes I realized his solution could really work. I implemented the advice as soon as I got back to my laptop (it honestly took about half an hour, max, to make the changes) and I smile as I write that even today—a Saturday, which is very slow in my niche and months after my conversation with Marcus—I made money (>$50) from that site that would otherwise have been offline. Thanks, dude!

I also (kind of) got to know Shoemoney—I love his show, have every episode on my iPod, and even before that first PubCon I think I’d listened to them all at least 2-3 times. I made a first impression that is pretty characteristic of my conference-going demeanor.

To quote my original post, “…My friend laughed and told me I was an idiot. Little did I know I would later confirm this beyond any shadow of a doubt by approaching Shoemoney once again, this time in the hotel bathroom … in a somewhat-drunken, post-Google happy hour state.”

About three or four months ago I ran into a problem where an affiliate network was honestly telling me they were going to steal (my word) about $3,000 from me, just because they received a cease and desist letter over a TOTALLY obscure trademark I was accidentally bidding on (I had something like 100,000 keywords in my account). I tried to reason with them on my own, but even my affiliate manager (who’s awesome, by the way, in case you read this :) . BTW could you bump me up a little? J/K–less you gonna do it) seemed helpless. I was ready to do what any pissed off guy with a blog does when someone screws them over—throw a raging mega-huge tantrum exposing the injustice.

Just as I was about to roll up my sleeves and unleash the beast, I thought “Wait, there’s gotta be a better way. Maybe Shoemoney could help me on this one, he’s pretty well connected with all these networks.” I was doubtful that Shoemoney would even receive any e-mail I sent, which would be going out to his public address (he must have forgotten to give me his cell phone number at PubCon ;) ). I could also imagine how busy he must be, that 3k isn’t much to him, and that the whole thing would probably seem like a waste of his time—but I figured I’d give it a shot. Couldn’t hurt. I sent my e-mail, titled “Getting screwed by XXXX, really hoping you could help out.”

The next morning I woke up early to my home-office phone ringing at about 5:10 AM. I’d sent that e-mail at about 2:00 AM. “Damn it, I hate these assholes on the East Coast,” I thought. I covered my ears and managed to survive the 30 seconds of ringing before falling back to sleep. When I woke up a few hours later and got online for my pre-breakfast checkup, my mailbox had about three e-mails from the affiliate network that I was having problems with, my affiliate manager who had been trying to avoid me (probably because she felt bad about screwing me over) had sent me a series of IMs and the caller ID on my phone showed they had tried to call me. I got in touch with my affiliate manager who was ecstatic. “YOU’RE GOING TO BE SO HAPPY! I don’t know WHAT or HOW this happened, but I got a note today on my desk saying I’m supposed to help you set up a new account (they had closed [banned] the old one)! And your payment is to be sent out ASAP!” I was in shock. These guys were telling me, the day before (if I was lucky enough to hunt them down for a conversation), that they were not only stealing the 3k I’d earned MTD, but that they were also banning me from their network. I wondered if it could have had anything to do with the e-mail I sent Shoemoney. I figured it must have been a coincidence–there was no way he could have already received my e-mail and acted on it–but to be safe I sent him a message explaining that the problem was resolved and thanking him if he’d had anything to do with it.

45 minutes later I had a reply:

I forwarded your email to the 2 founders of the company. I really did not do much else but I think that trademark bidding is bullshit… I always fight them on it.

Thanks man, I guess I owe you a drink :)

I’ve gone on a tangent here, but the point is, a lot of the people you meet at these shows are really cool, are willing to take their time to help you out, and really know their sh**. Not only is it a blast attending the show but there are real business benefits.

Alright, I don’t want to bore anyone with too much business-talk.

I may be a loser but I guarantee I can drink any of you Rockstars under the table…. As long as Chris Hooley doesn’t count as a Rockstar.

 

“Yeah, I have work tomorrow at 8:00 AM, I’m gonna keep it mellow tonight guys… Just one or two for me.”

 

 

 

“Okay, I guess a FEW shots would be fun…”

 

“Ooooh, now I can tell I’m in the zone. “

 

 

Oh well, the hallways closer to work than my bed anyway.”

I know you’re busy so I’ll cut this short, but I hope I win this contest ‘cause I’d love to join you once again in Las Vegas. I think it would be pretty amazing if I got a chance to come out there and hang out with you guys, especally considering where I was a year ago:

I saw one of the guys from the Webmaster Radio show (Oilman) “SEO Rockstars.” He really was a rock star at this SEO event. He was having free alcohol thrown at him, girls were fighting to talk to him, and he was dancing up and down in a nice club overlooking Las Vegas. Sitting at our table were Danny Sullivan, Oilman, Dixon Jones, MSN Reps and the Director of Product Management for Yahoo! Search, Tim Mayer. Oilman is another guy I’ve listened to for countless hours on Webmaster Radio and really liked … Like with Shoemoney, I felt like we were friends….

… Here I was, getting denied right and left, by a bunch of 25-50 year old nerdy guys. I had a collection of mixed emotions. I didn’t know if I was going to laugh or cry.

- Original SEO Loser Post,

I actually wasn’t planning on going to PubCon this year—spending about $1,000 to $4,000 at each of the last 4-5 events has taken a toll… I’d love to go if I happen to win this competition, though. It would be pretty cool for the loser to finally get a chance to roll with the Rockstars! :)

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Web Development Companies - Any Recommendations?

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I’m looking for a reliable, hopefully affordable web development company that can help me out with a fairly technically challenging project.  Basically I’m looking for a firm that can put together a solid web 2.0-looking, easy to use interface accompanied by some unique/custom php/ajax code that will take care of a specific job I don’t really want to mention here on the blog.  So far the only company I’ve contacted was Electric Pulp, but they e-mailed back within hours saying they we’re too backlogged to even give me a quote… sad when that happens ;).  If you can recommend any solid web development companies please just post a comment or contact me via e-mail at kris [at] seoloser.com.

Thanks

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SES San Jose 2007

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Next week is SES San Jose 2007 and I’ll be there attending the full show (hopefully I don’t stay out toooo late). I haven’t posted here in a really long time, I know, but I promise it’s because I’ve been working hard on some interesting projects and I’ll hopefully have some cool/useful affiliate tools/data/information I can share soon. Hope to see some of you at SES next week, and for those of you that are coming you can look forward to some really nice sun if it stays like it is now–I’m from (grew up in) Santa Cruz which is just about 30 minutes from San Jose, so if you feel like coming to the beach, going fishing (apparently the halibut are in “in force” right now) at all or exploring Santa Cruz just let me know and I can tell you the good places to go :).

Of course you should also remember to register for the Google Dance, my favorite party of any SEO related event so far (been to three of these Google dances now). Even though it ends early it’s a blast while it lasts… there are usually a few thousand people, tons of games, free wine and beer, free food, live music, etc. Basically it’s just a great party and if you feel like partying later there’s almost always something going on back in San Jose afterwards (Google provides free transportation via bus to/from their event). Register for the Google Dance 2007 here.

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I wish you could use SQL queries with AdCenter

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So I haven’t posted in forever, I know, and I’m sorry. It’s because I’ve been having so much fun with PPC and affiliate marketing. I always considered myself (and still do) an SEO. I knew some PPC stuff and did well with affiliate programs through SEO, but I prefer natural traffic on principle. One thing I always tell my brother/mom/family/friends when they ask about my business is that “I don’t want to have a job. I want to build things that make money while I’m not working.” The less maintenance required, the more I like it. It’s not because I don’t want to work, it’s just because it’s so cool to go out with your friends on Friday night and come home a few hours later to find you’ve made money while you were having fun. With PPC, I doubt many would argue that there’s a lot more “maintaining” to do than there is with SEO. That’s not to say you can just let an SEO project sit and expect it to do well forever, but it’s not as dependent on your day to day attention as PPC. Anyway, back to the point of this post.

Despite what I said above, I find PPC very fun or even entertaining. And I really love building tools that automate tasks and give me an advantage over my competition (I don’t even have anything fancy, but what I have built makes 1 hour of my work equivalent to 10 hours of work the way I was doing it a month ago).

Although I’ve been enjoying myself, there’s one thing that kills me. With MSN AdCenter, it is SO hard to modify your keywords once you get them online. I love the people at AdCenter (actually just got off a 2 hour phone conversation with them) and I don’t think their platform is half bad, but one thing it really needs is some tool that will allow advertisers to modify their keywords in bulk (and yes, I know they have a bulk edit option, but it’s almost completely useless).

Specifically, there needs to be an advanced way to delete keywords from a campaign. When you have 450 pages of keywords, going through them one by one and deleting isn’t realistic. You should be able to enter a SQL-esque query. For example, I would love to be able to enter a command like “DELETE FROM adgroupname WHERE status=’rejected’” or “DELETE FROM adgroupname WHERE LEN(keyword) > 25″

I can’t imagine it would be that hard to implement. The only reason I can think of for not having such functionality is they are afraid users would misunderstand it and destroy their campaigns with small typos. If that’s the case, MSN could just require a user to go to a special section of his/her account and “enable” advanced queries or something like that. The “filters” are a start, but much more is needed, and, IMO, it’s really not that complex.

Back to work :).

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Thoughts on the Future of Affiliate Marketing

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Well, the guys over at Elite Retreat were holding a contest for a free ticket to attend the event. I decided to participate, but lost :). I wasn’t very confident in my submission, and struggled because I felt that the question was hard to answer concisely and I didn’t want to spend more than a two-page-writing amount of time on it.

Anyway, since I lost, I now have a page and a half long writeup of my thoughts on the future of affiliate marketing that I’m not using for anything, so even though I’m not particularly proud of it, I thought I’d post my submission here in case anyone’s interested in my opinion ;)

The question I chose to answer was “What do you feel the future of affiliate marketing holds for affiliates?”

The bell will never toll for affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing, after all, is simply a new moniker for an age-old business concept: paying on commission. To suggest that affiliate marketing “is dying” or “will die” is no different than arguing that “the end is near for car salesmen, real estate agents, insurance agents and countless other professionals who depend upon commission payments.” Less sweeping laments might, however, be more accurate. Affiliate marketing will undoubtedly become more challenging and require its devotees to stay on the frontier by “thinking outside of the box.” There is no question—this is already taking place.

As markets mature, it becomes more difficult to earn a profit. This is economics 101 and is largely based on the principle of a barrier to entry. For a new marketplace, such as the internet, or to go further, affiliate marketing online, there is a huge conceptual barrier to entry. Despite the seemingly obvious business models used, the reality is that the vast majority of the population doesn’t understand affiliate marketing. Perhaps they are intimidated by the jargon—maybe it’s just that business on the internet carries complex connotations that scare people away—I don’t know, because I can’t personally understand it. By I do know that when I explain to an acquaintance or friend, as I have done hundreds of times over the past few years, how I make money online, it is a very rare occasion when I feel the listener really understands what I’m talking about. The difficulty nearly everyone has in comprehending the business model itself is the primary barrier to entry. These are smart people, but they aren’t competing in this amazingly lucrative marketplace because they just don’t understand how it works. It isn’t a business they learned about in school. It isn’t a market their dad, mom, or uncle was involved in.

Over the years, however, I have seen more and more of these smart people begin to “get it.” They come in to compete, and the availability and ease of profit declines. It is still present, but with every new affiliate the market grows increasingly saturated. After these entrepreneur 2.0s, as I’ll call this “new wave” of affiliates, has entered the space, the next heat is the companies/corporations themselves. As most of us experienced with the corporate world already know, these are the guys that really take a long time to “get it.” They are slow to catch up, but eventually many of them do. And when they do, they are able to leverage their immense resources and are willing to lose money in the pursuit of future profits (e.g. branding, lifetime value of a customer, etc.). When these companies enter the market in force and starting throwing their money around, competition increases even further, and once again the profit available to individual affiliates decreases. Naturally there are some affiliates that are still able to profit in this market place, but the ease with which they are able to do so, and the availability of profit is significantly reduced as compared to when the market was in its infancy.

In no area is this process more apparent than with PPC arbitrage. Why? Again, the reason has to do with barriers to entry. Although complex in its advanced forms, it is possible to start a PPC campaign and begin competing within minutes. Furthermore, PPC campaigns have results that are tangible and easy to delineate—as compared to SEO, for example, where results may come sporadically and months down the road. These factors, along with many others, have made PPC an appealing entrance point for individuals and companies alike.

It’s not that PPC is easy. PPC is difficult—and the ranking algorithm is, depending on who you ask, nearly as complex, or perhaps even more so, than it is for organic listings. Still, PPC is extremely attractive to new entrants. Results from an SEO campaign, as mentioned previously, are difficult to gauge and because it takes so long to see real results, inexperienced users are hesitant to give SEO a shot. Ultimately this has caused (and will continue to cause) a disproportionately large influx of competition in the pay per click and arbitrage markets. Yet again, the increased competition has made affiliate marketing more challenging within this sphere—unless, of course, an affiliate is able to think outside the box, innovate, and in this manner separate him/her self from the crowd (at the risk of being overly repetitive, I must mention again that this differentiation through innovation, or thinking beyond the ‘normal,’ is a barrier to entry in the sense that a lot of people just can’t do it).

Ultimately, affiliate marketing is here to stay. The only change will be where the affiliates position themselves—be it at a car dealership, a real estate agency, online, in the pay per click market place, in the organic results, or in any of a thousand other locations. With regard to affiliate marketing online in the forms of PPC and SEO, I’m comfortable making a few predictions. There will be a pronounced decline in the aggregate profit of affiliates utilizing PPC techniques due to rapidly increasing competition and discriminatory attitudes of search engines, which are often blatantly anti-affiliate and anti-arbitrage (think Quality Score). Creative affiliates capable of thinking innovatively will still find success, but the growing difficulty will persist. For SEO, the same is true, particularly with regard to spam/questionable sites created by myopic SEOs. As search engines improve their algorithms, these methods will become less successful, particularly because many of these tactics are easily replicated by competitors. In the organic results, however, well entrenched sites with established authority and useful content will continue to profit via affiliate marketing for many years to come. They are protected by a unique and very strong barrier to entry: the head start they enjoy in link development. When considering the bigger picture for affiliates—as opposed to obsessing over one explicitly defined category—it is clear that affiliate marketing will continue to be both effective and lucrative. The landscape will change—the principles will not.

——

PS: Does anyone know if they posted the winning submission anywhere? I’d love to read it as this is definitely an interesting question (if the winner even chose this one–there were two options).

 

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Tool for Checking your Yahoo NoContent Tags

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Well, I was in the mood for some PHP earlier, and was also working on adding Yahoo’s robots-nocontent tags to my pages, so I decided to waste my whole day relearning regexp stuff (my most hated aspect of php because I can never remember the expressions.. btw this regex cheat sheet is useful if you have a bad memory like me) and developing a little tool that helps you see what you’ve blocked out and what you haven’t. For those of you who have already started playing around with this tag, you probably noticed (like me) that it’s a real pain in the ass getting everything blocked out the way you want it, without accidentally screwing up your divs, spans, paragraphs, etc., or even worse, marking valuable content as robots-nocontent.

Here’s the tool.

This little tool will check your pages and highlight the parts you’ve blocked out in yellow so you can get a visual idea of what you’re telling Yahoo is content and what you’re saying isn’t content. You can also click a link at the top of your results page to toggle between a full code view and one that just shows what you haven’t blocked out.

Hopefully you get some use out of it, because I probably shouldn’t have spent my whole day coding it :) — (Yeah, I’m rusty with PHP, it probably shouldn’t have taken a whole day).

BTW, Some people are bound to notice little mistakes or glitches. If you happen to find something that needs fixin’, please let me know.

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Yahoo Introduces a nocontent Tag

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I was interested to read this afternoon that Yahoo has introduced a new “nocontent” tag to help them understand which parts of a page contain the “meat” or actual content, and which are just there to help users navigate the site / provide more general information.

I have one particular site that is ranking very well in Google but very poorly in Yahoo, so I was eager to give it a try. I implemented the tag in both the header and footer, but was hesitant to “nocontent” the navigation menu even though Yahoo seems to recommend this in their post.

Yahoo has also mentioned that they’ll be updating their index tonight to allow this new tag to be incorporated in their algorithms, and suggest that some reshuffling is bound to take place. As mentioned above, I’ve already implemented the tag in a couple places, so I’m excited to see if there is any change in my Yahoo rankings for the site in question. I’ll post a follow up if I see any action :).

If you’d like to give it a try, here are the ‘instructions:’

Applying the “class=robots-nocontent” Attribute:
Listed below are several examples of how to apply this attribute for various uses and different syntax options:

    <div class=”robots-nocontent”>This is the navigational menu of the site and is common on all pages. It contains many terms and keywords not related to this site</div>

    <span class=”robots-nocontent”>This is the site header that is present on all pages of the site and is not related to any particular page</span>

    <p class=”robots-nocontent”>This is a boilerplate legal disclaimer required on each page of the site</p>

    <div class=”robots-nocontent”>This is a section where ads are displayed on the page. Words that show up in ads may be entirely unrelated to the page contents</div>

You can use the “class=robots-nocontent” attribute with all XHTML tags and thus have great flexibility on applying this to your site pages.

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Light Posting Over the Past Week

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I just wanted to make a quick update apologizing for the lack of posts last week.  It was my birthday on April 20th and then my little brother’s yesterday, and on top of that I’ve been rolling out a ton of new (time consuming) projects, so I’ve been pretty swamped.  Next week I should be able to catch up, though, and get bloggin’ again :).

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Great Post on SEO

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I try at all costs to avoid doing what I’m about to do which is to make a post just telling you to check out someone else’s blog, because I hate reading these myself :).   The reason I hate these posts is because out of the 40 to 50 blogs I subscribe to, often times 10-15 of them have basically the same thing regurgitated with only a slight variation.   So I apologize, but this one was just too good. 

Suntdubl’s SEO Playbook, in my mind, isn’t so good because it’s a playbook.  The reason I liked it so much was because of the amazing job Stuntdubl does in eloquently/uniquely describing SEO.  Aside from that (which imo is the part that makes the post worth reading and sharing), it does have some basic SEO/internet marketing guidelines.

My favorite quote?

“Technology and marketing were formerly unique disciplines with very different types of people.  SEO’s are the folks in between.”

I don’t think I’ve heard a better description of what an SEO really is.

You should check it out for yourself, though—it’s not more than a 5-10 minute read.

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