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Digerati Forums Launched & Competition

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I’ve been putting together a fairly simple forum, to gather feedback and promote discussion on the SEO Tools. However, it occurred to me, I get a whole bunch of e-mails asking me about SEO, or explaining something specific in one of my posts, so I thought – why not make forums for everyone?

I’m pleased to launch the Digerati SEO Forum

I’m looking to get a whole bunch of you clever SEO people in one place and really push what we can come up with together. I’ll of course, be browsing around on a daily basis, so if you have a question for me, have mercy on my inbox and post it in the forum! (:

If you’re a Digerati Tools Subscriber then PM me on the forums (MarkDigerati) and I’ll add you to the Digerati group, which will give you access to hidden forums for SEO Tools members.

You say something about a competition?
Indeed, competition time! I will giving away a 3 month free subscription to the Digerati SEO Tools for whoever is the most helpful and active poster on the forums between now and the end of February.

Well, why not sign up and introduce yourself? :)

P.S. The signature links are followed, so feel free to get some extra link juice to your sites.

P.P.S Did I mention I posted a thread on how to easily get PR3,4,5 links to your site?

Posted in Black Hat, Digerati News, Grey Hat, Search Engine Optimisation | 11 Comments

New Digerati Tool: Stumble Crawler

Monday, January 21st, 2008

It’s a busy time here at the Digerati Labs. There’s lots of sweat, coding and shackled up monkeys working around the clock to bring you some sweet stuff.

In final testing, to be released this week for the Elite SEO Tool Subscribers, I present:

Stumble Crawler



What does the new kid on the block, do?
If you’re running a website with loads of user generated content, viral content or disposable stuff you need this app. Or perhaps you just have too many sites to keep under control? I hate having to click “stumble” and review all of my posts individually, it takes bloody ages.

So, whack in your websites URL and this lovely app will crawl through your website and return as many pages as you so wish. Bung in your Stumble login details and it will set to work, stumbling your pages/posts at random intervals that you specify parameters for. Got a 500 post blog? Give it an hour while you drink tea and watch Adsense earnings go up and it will get the lot Stumbled for you.

It works with newly discovered and adult pages, too. Boom.

Posted in Digerati News, Grey Hat, Social Marketing | 17 Comments

Interesting SEO Tools side effect

Friday, January 18th, 2008

As you can imagine, with the current roll out of my SEO Tools, I am keeping a close eye on their progress and how well they are working in different niches and on different sites.

I noticed an interesting side effect of the Link Backrub tool that we made. One of the tasks Link Backrub has to do is profile your inbound links, which means it has to use all sorts of techniques to work out where you have links from. One of the methods it uses to do this, is by tracking referrer data. If a visitor lands on your website, the Link Backrub bot will scuttle off to the referring site, check that it links to you and does a few health checks, making sure the link is followed and not present in the robots.txt file.

Once it has confirmed you have a valid inbound link, it will check that this page is indexed in Google, if not it will put it in a queue to get Google to look at it. Here’s what takes the biscuit though…

For my regular readers you would have seen my post on getting search pages indexed and dominating rankings. Now, obviously a lot of people find some of my sites via things like the Tesco Search. Imagine my surprise, when for one of my niche search terms I have my site listed #1, then at #2 a Tesco’s search page featuring my site as well!

Basically, the Tesco’s authority and having the keyword all over the search page outranked my ocmpetitors’ sites and gave me extra precious SERP space!

Posted in Digerati News, Grey Hat, Search Engine Optimisation | 1 Comment

Star Wars SEO Link Building For Padawans

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Okay, there’s a Star Wars week on the TV at the moment, so I thought I’d examine who those damn Jedi (and Sith) would do SEO if there was a Google a long time ago in a galaxy far away.

Darth Sidious (The Emperor)

Sith Lord | Stealth Blackhat | Cloaked Linkbait & Reciprocals

As in the films, Darth Sidious will look like a nice chap to the casual observer, giving the people what they want while beavering away working to achieve his own goals. His techniques and naughtiness will go unnoticed until he suddenly outranks you. Or forms a galactic empire and enslaves your entire planet.

I imagine if Darth Sidious was link building, he’d do something like this:

Cloaked Linkbait

1) Write a brilliant link bait article and upload it to a new domain.

2) Submit the linkbait to Digg and then buy Diggs with Subvert & Profit

3) Revel in the glory of being on the first page of Digg and receiving hundreds of links for his article.

4) All the time he was secretly 301’ing the URL (only to spiders, googlebots and the like) to his dirty porn and pills site.

The Sith Lord’s porn and pills site just got a bunch of new links! Oh, well if it gets caught – you’re going down with him, Google thinks you just linked to a bad neighborhood!

Cloaked Reciprocals

Well, the Dark Lord does like taking advantage of the weak and ignorant. There’s a whole lot of juicy links to be had from noob webmasters on their geocities sites and such. So, if Darth Sidious was too busy interrogating Ewoks to write link bait, I imagine he might:

1) Set up a well worded e-mail, requesting a reciprocal link exchange to his website.

2) Use an e-mail harvester program to collect addresses of similar content websites.

3) Spam requests to 1000s of these websites.

4) Auto-generate a links page to anyone who links to his site.

5) When a Googlebot comes along to check out the site, show “rel=nofollow” on all of the links going to the links page.

6) Do an evil laugh because he just got hundreds of “one-way” backlinks to his site.

7) Force lightening the cat to celebrate.

Dangerous people these stealth blackhats. Their link footprints look fairly natural and they don’t get anyones back up with overt tactics, this makes them generally have a long life and do a lot of damage.

Darth Vader

Sith Apprentice | Aggressive Blackhat | Link Insertion & Spamming

Vader’s a dangerous one. Behind that shiny suit is an aggressive little blackhatter that will stop at nothing to get what he wants and he wants: YOUR search positions!

Not quite as subtle as master blackhatter, Vader isn’t scared to crash right in with some link insertion and some aggressive spamming. The aggressive blackhat, sometimes over confident of their technical abilities will use techniques such as using exploits to grab 60,000 links. Who cares what the cost is? Vader achieves his goal by inflicting his evil onto the web at the cost of others. Want a mantra? Think “Fuck Alderaan“. Do what you need to do to get the job done!

Jabba The Hutt

Fat Slug Thing | Social Cashhat | Social Cartels & Link Buying

Jabba The Hutt is a cash rich gangster, he’ll use his assets to get him ahead of the game and usually does his dirty work through other people. Jabba The Hutt in the SEO game would likely have close ties to networks such as TextLinkAds, PayPerPost and BuyBlogComments.

Jabba would be your guy on the web who has already made some money and can invest resources and cash onto these networks to get quick returns, suck it dry, then move on. There’s a lot of Jabbas on the web and they can do pretty well. Like all crime bosses, they’ll enjoy their time at the top, get busted (or taken down by another gangster with more power) and replaced by someone else. You’ll find it hard to take them out completely as they normally have their sluggy fingers in a lot of pies all over the place.

Luke Skywalker

Grey Jedi | Effective Greyhat | Link Laundering

I’m sure some Star Wars buff will shoot me down on this, but I remember a conversation at school about 8 years ago when a guy was explaining to me that Luke Skywalker wasn’t a “Light” Jedi because he used Force Choke in the novels or something. So, for this instance, I’m going to put him in the Grey Hat category.

I think young Skywalker would have an interesting approach to link building, not restricted to the tight code of your typical Whitehat, yet not the destructive path of the Blackhat which will lead to eventual banning.

I would imagine Luke would be using highly effective techniques such as link laundering to build a good cross-section of links. Not exactly what you’d call “white hat”, yet not really breaking any rules. A highly effective and somewhat unique technique.

Link laundering can be done with image hosting sites that link back to your site, tools such as the old school webcounter that links back to its source, or more recently there’s a whole bunch of social network applications and widgets I’ve seen providing links for their creators. WordPress templates are another source of inbound links I think Lukey boy might look into.

Strange little bastard, isn’t he?

Han Solo

Smuggler | Tech Whiz | Database & Longtail Exploitation

Solo was a bit of a tech whiz in all the films, hydro-spannering hyper-drives and giving mechanics kicks to bits of hardware. Not really in touch with the force, but enough knowledge to work his way out of most situations and into some profit.

I would see Han Solo, going to somewhere like Seocracy and buying a bunch of databases (possible borrowing money from a Hutt first). Using some technical wizardry, it is quite easy to set up a couple of pages that will dynamically pull out all of the content from the database and organise it into static pages. Voila, in a very down and dirty Han Solo style you have a potential money making site.

By channeling link equity effectively around the site, using nofollows it is possible to pour a lot of link juice into your long-tail targeted pages automatically. You’d be surprised how much link juice is inside a million page website.

While a Solo can get by on his own, he generally won’t get rich until he has a Skywalker help him out to get all those pages indexed.

Yoda

Jedi Master | Guru Whitehat | Knowledge Spreader

Never using the link building force in aggression, Yoda is a content creator and the “go to” Jedi when you need advice. A Yoda will invest their time producing tons of high quality content, which padawans can learn from. Always kind enough to share, the Yoda will be omni-present on social networking sites in all niches, letting people know they can come to him for both great and helpful advice.

Think someone like Rand Fishkin, he has become quite the sought guru and looking at his blog, he spends a great deal of time just answering e-mail. The helpful nature, the content he produces and his constant presence over different forums and social networks sees him gain thousands of links.

Do remember though, even in the films, Yoda was hundreds of years old and to get to this kind of status and level. It can seem to take that long in the SEO world too! Oh, I guess Rand was redeemed from the Darkside a few years ago too – but we won’t mention that (:

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Jedi Knight | Bog Standard Whitehat | Social gnat

Did you notice how Obi-Wan’s ghost was everywhere after he “became one with the Force”? He was everywhere! Poor old Luke couldn’t have a dump in peace without Obi appearing to tell him how to wipe his arse.

Obi-Wans are pretty experienced SEOers, but they’re stuck in a bad place. They know not to travel down the path of the blackhat, however they don’t have the spirit to invest them self fully into social media and other channels which seem essential to being a “successful” whitehat (apparently there is such a thing).

Obi-Wans will set their site up search engine friendly, try mediocre content, not get many links and try and get involved in the SEO community in a number of ways. I would imagine Obi-Wan would be the kind of person who spends most of their time reading blogs and commenting, gaining referral traffic and the odd “followed” link, helping him in the SERPs, when the post is relevant.

A bad thing? No, not at all. If you’re ever going evolve into a Dark Lord or Jedi Master, you need to spend a hell of a lot of your time reading. Reading. Reading. Reading. Still reading? Learn everything, Whitehat, Blackhat, everything between and what all the industry leaders and creative speakers think about different tactics. Only then can you go blade to blade with a Vader and cut down Jabbas with ease.

If you don’t evolve in time, you’ll get cut down by a Vader and nobody cares what you think, because they’re too busy talking to Yoda.

Jar Jar Binks

General Fool | BumbleHat | Hangs out at DigitalPoint

Lastly, we have Jar Jar Binks. The person, um, “thing” that gives Star Wars a bad name. There’s a whole bunch of these in the SEO community. Unfortunately, I see a lot of them on Digital Point, posting on the hour, every hour, asking when the next PR update is. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some really cool people on Digital Point and some quality posts, however I seem to have to trawl through the “noise” of hundreds of yabbering Jar Jars to get near any posts.

A typical Jar Jar will spend most of his time on forums, asking for reciprocal links and asking incredibly detailed questions about PageRank, such as “precisely how many PR2 links is a PR5 link worth?” and asking life-reflecting questions such as “If I had a choice between 100 PR1 links or 1 PR2 link, which should I choose?”. They tend to also sign posts with “when is the next PageRank update???!”.

More interesting is how the others in the group interact with Jar Jars. Dark Lords will tend to trick Jar Jars into linking to them and exploiting any value their geocities sites have, while the Yodas of the SEO world will spend time helping the Jar Jars and training them, forming long term relationships. Which are you?

Who is the Force with?
The last interesting Star Warsy parallel I’d like to draw is between black and white hat. In the films, the Darkside (blackhats) crash about and cause a massive impact on the galaxy (web). They tend to get what they want to, governments fall, people die and the Darkside is pretty successful for a while. However, all of these techniques lead to destruction (banning in Google) and the “slow but steady” whitehats (Jedi), end up on top again. (Even though most of them were dead at one point).

Well, there you have it. If you want to get better at SEO, watch Star Wars.

Posted in Black Hat, Grey Hat, Search Engine Optimisation, White Hat | 31 Comments

Will It Make Money? Top 3 Considerations

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Every single day I probably come up with three or four new ideas for websites. Every single year, I probably come up with three or four good ideas for websites. So how do you separate “good” ideas from “notsogood” ideas? There’s definitely a process, which most experienced developers/marketers do without even realising it. I’m going to try and outline my thought process and some of the tools I use to judge whether ideas make it to the web or to the recycle bin.

Consideration 1: Has it been done before?
Sounds obvious, huh? I really hate pissing on peoples’ parades, but working as a consultant I’m probably approaching triple figures for the amount of times when I’ve been told about the “next big thing”, only to have to show people a Google search result page with a dozen established websites already.

If you’re planning a fairly large project, it really does pay to load up Google and hammer it with everything you can think of which might possibly be related to your idea. Oh, your idea’s been done before? No, biggie – My mantra here is: Do it different, or do it better!

Different? That doesn’t just mean the core idea! For instance, you could do the basic idea but target it at a different audience. A great example of this is Sphinn.

Sphinn versus Digg?

Well, here’s the thing – there’s isn’t really a “Sphinn versus Digg”. Sphinn isn’t very much different from Digg at all, however it is aimed at Internet Marketers, which is a crowd that isn’t always welcomed with open arms over at Digg. It seems obvious now, but what would your first reaction be in a pre-Sphinn world if someone came to you and said “I’ve got this idea for a website, it’s a social site where people vote on news stories and…”? It would have been very easy to scrap the idea without further thought.

Better? Surf the web looking for opportunities, just how Danny realised that Digg could be better for search marketers, I could go and find a list of 10 sites now which I could use and say “this really could be better if…” – that’s where these “simple but great” ideas come from. Who 2 years ago thought MySpace would be being dominated by other social network site?

Facebook was not designed as a competitor to MySpace, it began it’s life in the halls of Harvard as a way for students to connect with each other. The idea slowly expanded to more ivy league schools, then universities, then companies, until it has reached its colossal size today. The idea started out with similar premise to MySpace, but again a different audience. It just so turns out it performs the function of MySpace, but in a much better way: Greater connectivity and less spam (for at now at least).

This is one of the reasons we can see MySpace’s brand searches suffer in Google as people leave in their droves and head for Facebook. You can see around 2007 MySpace really began to suffer and has started to decline in search popularity, which spells out a bleak future for them. I don’t want to get into a big MySpace vs. Facebook debate, I want to say: it doesn’t matter how big your competitor is, if you can do something genuinely better, you’ve got a chance.

Consideration 2: Intelligent monetisation

There are a whole bunch of ways you can make money from a website and one of the biggest mistakes I see is people just defaulting to the Adsense crutch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Adsense fan, but it has its uses and it’s certainly not a silver bullet solution for monetisation.

Before you even get into monetisation, you should ask yourself the question; should you be trying to monetise a site from the kick off anyway? Obvious monetisation can adversely effect the credibility of your site, or worse yet – drive users away as you sell off the traffic that you’ve worked so hard to draw in.

I’ve mentioned before, I don’t use Adsense on this blog – and I think it’s a pretty good example. I don’t do sponsored posts, sell links or show Adsense because all of these things would drive users away from my blog, which I’m writing to get them here in the first place! I want you here to read this information, not con you into coming here for a few vague tips just so I can pawn you off to the highest bidder.

I imagine most of my readers will know about Adsense, so most probably won’t click on it anyway – so I won’t make much money. I guess I could blend it in and maybe get a few misclicks, but what’s the point in that? When I recommend certain products, or schemes I sometimes use an affiliate link, which I mark as (aff) to let people know what it is. This way, I add value to readers, not trying to get them to buy/subscribe/use something that’s not relevant to the post. If they have to look at it anyway, why not use an affiliate link? They would perform that action anyway. Marking the links with (aff) is just my way of communicating to my readers that they have the option of typing in the URL if they really don’t want me to get a commission – that’s their choice at the end of the day.

If you can “build in” a monetisation stream to your site, i.e. make it part of the integral process that 1) does not require the user to do more than they usually would and 2) still sees the user perform the actions you want them to, you’re on a winner.

There are tertiary methods of generating revenue, which can be very lucrative – but will never be core to functionality, such as CPM (cost per thousand impression) banners. If you run a community based website with 1000 uniques per day and an average of 10 page views, there’s a fair bit of money to be had from site-wide CPM advertising. There’s even more money to be had if you can directly sell these banner impressions to interested parties, rather than the sometimes rather low-paying CPM networks.

Do you like banners, though? When was the last time you went to a site and you thought “Wow, I’m really pleased that banner advert is there!” Rarely, probably never. As a rule of thumb people don’t like banners – however, they can pay the bills, so there has to be some kind of balance.

In the above example, we’re talking about building a community site, which is a damn hard thing to do – to reach that “critical mass” of users, where your user count will self-replicate and you don’t have to have your foot on the pedal to keep the thing alive. So, at these tender stages of your website’s life, is it a good idea to expose people to banner adverts? Unlikely.

Monetisation can be a bit of a gamble and there’s loads of examples we could work through, but there’s a few key rules to keep in mind:

1) Can you integrate your monetisation into the core functionality of your site?

2) Should you be using “push” monetisation straight away?

3) How will your users react and interact with different monetisation streams?

4) How do other sites in your niche monetisation their presence?

5) What actions do you want a user to take on your site and does your monetisation work against these?

6) Have you considered:

> Affiliate deals to monetise content
> Contextual advertising such as Adsense, Adbrite, PeakClick? (CPC)
> Cost per thousand impression (CPM) advertising such as TribalFusion, Casale, BurstMedia
> Having other sites or companies sponsor sections of your website?
> Does your site give to voluntary donations?
> What about subscription based systems?
> Can you monetise RSS or syndicated feeds?
> Can you do sponsored content? (Nofollowed of course!)

What I’m tarting on about is that you can’t make anything without visitors, so put them first. Maybe I should have just written that half an hour ago? (:

Consideration 3: Time vs Profit Ratio

Avid readers of my blog (I love you guys), will know I’m a big fan of “quick buck” ideas. These are ideas which are quick and easy to implement and will earn you a bit of pocket money. When building a web portfolio, diversification is the key factor to income stability. Although I have a few “battleship” sites, I’ve also got a million dingys floating about, so if a few Google bombs go off here and there, I’m still in pretty good shape.

A lot of people ask the question “I want to make money online, should I make one big site, or loads of little ones?” My answer is, both! (and everything between them for that matter). Small sites are a great way of testing ideas, monetisation streams, SEO techniques, designs, you name it. You can increase your overall chance of success by lowering risks early on. If you spend all of your time, money and resources on building your first battleship site and for whatever reason, it sinks – that leaves you in a nasty place. If you can get up and running with a few quick wins, you can use this revenue as a “margin of error” to play with when working on larger projects.

My most successful “dingy” site took about 20 minutes to build, about 20 minutes of promotion and it makes about $300 a month, with no work whatsoever. I’d say that’s a pretty good investment, by whatever yardstick you’re using. So what makes a “dingy” site?

It’s not size that’s for sure. Some of the quickest projects may be database driven sites with a million pages that are built just to catch long-tail queries. I generally class a site by three factors:

1) How long it will take to build, design and develop

2) How many visitors it will take to make the site consistently earn money

3) What ongoing maintenance and time will the site take?

The first is fairly simple and easily written off. If you’re confident you can design and develop the site, you’re onto a winner. A lot of the time, it’s easy to pick up a CMS such as WordPress, Drupel, Joomla or Pligg to smack a site together in no time. A real issue is how many visitors is it going to take to make the site earn money? This depends on our earlier points about monetisation streams, if you’re relying on CPM – it will take a hell of a lot, if you’re relying on single high paying affiliate commissions, probably not so many.

The most important by far for me, is what time, on an ongoing basis will this site eat up? As much as I love community type sites, they take a bastard amount of TLC to get off the ground. With many projects on the go, you really need to do some time planning to make sure you’ve got enough spare (or can outsource), to see these things through. An early mistake I made was building loads of sites and not giving them the attention they needed to grow. You won’t be getting a second chance to impress with a lot of visitors, so make sure you’ve got resources to spare to make it work first time round.

If however, you spend a little more time, you’ll see there are loads of drag and drop projects that you can set up and leave running at no more time expenditure.. Quick wins, like Google navigation queries (:

I hope these seeds give you some solid logic to build on. To be honest, I was going to do a top 5, but I’ve just moved house and I’m on “free city wifi” until I get broadband installed here. Unfortunately “free shitty wifi” would be more accurate as I’m getting about 33.6kbps modem speeds (remember them??). Oh, I’ve also got some dingys to inflate (:

Posted in Adsense, Advertising, Affiliate Marketing, Black Hat, Blogging, Community Sites, Google, Grey Hat, Marketing Insights, Paid Search, Research & Analytics, Search Engine Optimisation, Social Marketing, Splogs, Viral Marketing, White Hat, Yahoo | 7 Comments