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Blackhat SEO Tools & Scripts – The Digerati Blackbox

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

buenos dias, friends!

I’ve put together a little treat for all of you budding and new blackhats out there. I got quite annoyed this week with the whitehattards on Sphinn.

Those of you who actually know me, will know I believe whitehat stuff is very important to building a web business. However, I also believe there is strong case for at least experimenting with gray/blackhat (whatever you want to call it). There are some markets you literally cannot touch without getting off your rainbow shitting whitehat unicorn of light. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of, erm, “dedicated” whitehats out there that refuse to even learn what blackhat is. I’d like to take this opportunity to shed some myths (AKA venting) about blackhat. For those of you who don’t enjoy reading pissed off (I believe the whitehat word for pissed is “snarky” – Thanks Matt.C), feel free to skip down the page to the goodies.

Things that whitehattards believe to be true:

1. That “on page” SEO is some uber-skill which takes years to learn.

False. If you actually get a good web developer, the chances are he (or she!) will make a decent crawable website. You might be able to help them out with some keyword research to help target title/header tags, or give them a little advice on PR sculpting for large sites with nofollow. Good internal linking structures are pretty commonly well known – at least with the web developers I know. If any pure whitehat starts talking about precise keyword density, just laugh in their face.

2. The main thing about SEO is creating good content.
Good content gets links, yes. Well done. Why are you doing SEO when so many crimes are going unsolved around the world? Good content is important for whitehat site, yes. However, good content is not bloody SEO! How do I know this? Would you bother writing good content if search engines didn’t exist? Yes, you would. Therefore it is actually a component of web design, not SEO!

3. There’s no point in blackhat, you’ll just get banned.
This little corker comes from two types of people, normally from people who have never tried blackhat (glad they’re qualified to comment, why not go give a lecture on brain surgery while you’re at it). Or, secondly, people who have tried some very, very, basic blackhat and done it badly and left footprints like a crack-addicted yeti storming around the web. I know of many blackhat sites that have enjoyed top positions for years without getting caught for competitive key phrases those whitehats couldn’t touch with a NASA sized hard drive full of great content.

4. I’m a good whitehat SEO because “I know” where to get links from
Aww now, c’mon. Not really a “core” SEO skill is it? I’ll give it to you, that it helps. I think what you’re trying to say is “I understand how the web works and where it is possible to drop links” or “I use social news/community sites”. I know people who have never built a link in their life and would make great whitehat SEO link builders because they spend ages writing content for blogs and taking part in Digg, Reddit, Stumble, blaahh, blahhh. At best, it’s a transferable skill.

5. Blackhat SEOs only resort to blackhat because they can’t produce good websites
This one (which I saw several times on Sphinn), just leaves my jaw dropped. Generally, blackhats are far more accomplished programmers than whitehats and can build much cleaner and more efficient websites (and a lot do) if they wish. The fact is, by scripts and automation they’ve found a way to make a decent income without burning the midnight oil writing content about their new “diamond goat hoof jewellery” niche they’ve found. This comment normally comes from whitehats who wouldn’t know a blackhat if they spammed them in the face.

There is however, advanced white hat SEO, as Eli kindly demonstrates in his painfully bastardish always right way.

Ahem. Anyway…..

The Digerati Blackbox

So, I’ve collected together a set of tools, scripts, databases and tutorials which will help the beginner blackhat find their feet. Some of the stuff is pretty good, albeit fairly basic. You should be able to make something decent if you combine some of these scripts, or strip out some of the code into your own creations.

Blackbox Contents:

Cloaking & Content Generation:

cloakgen1.zip:
This is a cloak / dynamic content generation script. To use it you simply add a small piece of code to the top of each page you wish to be cloaked. When someone accesses your page then cloakgen is run and if the user-agent suggests the visitor is a standard user then they are simply shown your standard page. However if the user-agent suggests that the visitor is a search engine then it will start doing the business. It will start by finding out what page called it, then it will open this page and find out what the most common words on the page are. Once it has worked this out then it will scrape some content about that word from wikipedia and add it with your normal page content. Each keyword will be emphasised in a random way. For example the keyword could be bold or red font etc. The final page will be output in the following way:

Title of the page in capital letters
Large title at the top of the page
Content of the website with emphasization and wiki content

padkit.zip:
PAD is the Portable Application Description, and it helps authors provide product descriptions and specifications to online sources in a standard way, using a standard data format that will allow webmasters and program librarians to automate program listings. PAD saves time for both authors and webmasters. This is what you want to use with the below databases.

yacg.zip:
You should have heard of Yet Another Content Generator (YACG). It’s a beautifully easy way to get websites up and running in minutes with mashed up scraped content.

Databases:

articles.zip:
A database of 23,770 different articles on a variety of topics.

bashquotes.zip:
This is a database of every quote on Bash.org. This huge Database has every single quote as of May 1st, 2007!

KJV_bible.zip:
The whole thing King James Bible – Old & New Testament.

medical_dictionary.sql.zip:
Over 130,000 rows of medical A-Z

Keyword Scripts:

ask-single-keyword-scraper.zip:
This script allows you to scrape a range of similar keywords to your original keyword from Ask.com.

google-single-keyword-scraper.zip:
This script will take a base keyword and then scrape similar keywords from google.

msn-live-api-scraper.zip:
This script uses php cURL to scrape search results from the MSN LIVE Search API.

overture-single-keyword-scraper.zip
Enter one base keyword and scrape similar keywords from overture.

Linkbuilding Scripts:

dity.zip:
A very easy to use (and old) multi guestbook spammer.

logscraper.zip:
Nifty little internal linker (read more about it here)

trackback.zip
Very powerful trackback poster. Trackback Solution is 100% multithreaded and very efficient at automatically locating and posting trackback links on blogs.

xml-feed-link-builder-z.zip
Very nice script to generate links from to your site from people scraping RSS.

Misc Scripts:

alexa-rank-cheater1.zip:
Automate the false increase of your Alexa rating/rank.

typo-generator-esruns.zip:
Create typos of a competitive keyword and rank easy!

Scraping:

feedwordpress.0.993.zip:
Wordpress plugin that makes scraping the easiest thing in the world.

Proxies:

proxy_url_maker.zip:
Create a list of web proxy URLs used for negative seo purposes or spam

proxygrabber.zip:
A script to download proxies from the samair proxy list site.

CAPTCHAs:

delicious.zip:
Delicious CAPTCHA broken. In Python.

smfcaptchacrack.zip:
Simple machines forums captcha breaker compiled and designed to run on Linux but portable to Windows.

Tutorials:

curl_multi_example.zip:
What it says on the tin. Examples of m-m-m-multi curl!

superbasiccurl.zip:
4 super basic tutorials on using curl/regex.

I’d like to give special thanks to all donators and people who included their stuff here:

Steve – For the majority of scripting here.
Rob – For the databases
Eli – For delicious CAPTCHA breaker
Rob – For trackback magic
Harry – For proxygrabber/linux captcha scripts

Here it is:

blackhat seo tools
Download Digerati Blackbox Toolkit (51.4Mb)

Disclaimer: I’m not offering support on any of these tools or scripts, although I might do a couple of tutorial posts on how to use them. So don’t ask me how to use them, check out the respective author’s website if you get stuck. Obviously Digerati Marketing Ltd, I, my dog, or anyone else cannot be held responsible for any type of loss or damages of any kind (even an act of God Google) if you choose to use them. At your own risk blah blah blah. Zzzzzz. Enjoy.

Posted in Black Hat, Grey Hat, Marketing Insights, Research & Analytics, Search Engine Optimisation, Social Marketing, Splogs, White Hat | 64 Comments »

SEO Guerrilla Warfare

Monday, June 9th, 2008

I get a lot of e-mails and questions about trying to SEO against big companies and established websites. A lot of people seem to get stuck in the mindset of “Oh, no MegaCorp(tm) has a $79 billion SEO budget per month, there’s no way we’ll ever beat them!?

The fact is, you can. You can eat them for breakfast, then wipe your month with their over-inflated legalise Terms & Conditions page(s). This can be especially satisfying if you decide to take down a company you’re not particular fond of. While you’re sitting on your balcony at home having breakfast taking in some sun (or rain, if you’re a Brit), you can daydream about them running around their shiny boardroom pointing at the big graph on the wall that’s going down, generally shrieking at each other as their search empire crumbles at their feet.

Let’s get going, comrade.

Digerati Marketing Guerrilla Warfare

Dedication to SEOs everywhere
I would like to dedicate this post to all SEOs who work on their own projects and have tackle big businesses trying to elbow them out of the game at every stage. While you may have the better sites, the better content and more passion that what you’re doing, you’re messages are oppressed by greedy companies who want to fill the Internet with their mediocre content, their brand and of course, their ads. I give no apologies to the companies we will disrupt, but sorry guys, that space belongs to us (and our ads).

General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
To win a Google war, you must have a detailed understanding of your own strength and weaknesses, as well as your enemy’s. Everyone has their own areas of the web they excel in, whether it’s programming, design, content writing or networking, however to be consistently successful, you will need to develop a wide range of these skills either yourself, or in your guerrilla band. Large enemy armies (err, I mean companies) share many common weaknesses. It is these weaknesses which you will learn to relate to your own skill sets and exploit until the enemy is utterly demoralised, scattered, beleaguered and exhausted.

If you attempt to face your enemy, overtly on the battlefield, you’ll lose. However, there are many advantages to being a small entity, you can operate unseen, you can move quickly and your personal interaction can sow the seeds of descent which will turn the enemy’s own populace against them.

Guerrilla Warfare Strategies

Weakness #1:A Large Army Requires Lots Of Supplies

Large Army

Okay, so MegaCorp has more dozens, or even hundreds of staff and you’re on your own, or it’s only you and a couple of comrades working from your small base in the woods (or whatever you call home). This can actually be an advantage!

Large businesses only want to get involved in projects which are of course, profitable for them. However, for these businesses to make profit, they have to pay for office buildings, web developers, designers, agencies, sales staff, editorial staff, marketing staff, the coffee machine and keep replacing the tea spoons that staff is nicking. This means you can have a better core offering than your enemy.

Have a look at their business model, how are they making money? Are they filling pages with advertising? Are they selling advert space? Perhaps they’re offering a service that other companies are paid to be included in? When it comes to monetization you can; show less adverts, charge the same advertisers less to be advertised on your site, or offer the same service for cheaper or free!

So take the model where companies are being paid to be listed on your enemy’s website. As an individual, you could quite easily make a decent amount of money showing some contextual advertising, or selling some advert space. So collect all the names of your enemy’s allies and e-mail them, offering the same benefits – but for free (or cheaper!).

For instance, “I noticed you are listed on website xxxx and you are paying $250 a month for this service. I am running xxxx website and I am prepared to offer free listings for your company for life, if you will display this badge showing you are listed here.”

Most companies would much rather chuck you a link than pay a monthly subscription, so in this instance, you’ve gained exposure (from the link), a couple of steps forward in terms of SEO (you’ve got some quality links from relevant sites) and you’ve made your enemy look bad by offering the same service for free (or a lot less).

The key here is research. Use the fact you’re small and unknown to research, spy and gain information. Pose as a potential client or advertiser and contact your enemy, asking for rate-cards or prices, ask for visitors stats. Use all of this information to build up a picture of their revenue model. From this you can calculate their revenue, and work on a counter-revenue model, which offers better value to visitors or participating entities.

Whatever money they’re making, you can afford to make less and still be far, far more profitable than them. Use this to your advantage to out-do their offer on all fronts and make your website more appealing.

Weakness #2:The Army Must Control The Populace

Russian Soldiers With megaphone

Big companies have a big brand to protect. Dispute their dominant appearance most companies are absolutely terrified of damaging their brand and will do anything to avoid taking risks. This is war, and risks need to be taken! From talking to hundreds of companies about their websites, one of the most common fears is UGC (User Generated Content), they are terrified to let people speak their minds for fear they might speak against the current regime! The CEO sits quivering in his chair that someone might say “FUCK” on his website and he’ll have angry people writing letters and bashing on the doors of the ivory tower.

You can really press the advantage hard here. It seems common sense to most savvy web developers and entrepreneurs nowadays, but open your site to the masses. Let them submit content, comment on content, talking in forums, whatever way you can allow them to have some interaction and control over their website. That’s right, it’s not your website, it’s the peoples’ website – so let them have some control!

Some more forward-thinking enemy do allow YGC on their sites, but it is typically heavily moderated to give the impression of free speech, when in reality, everyone is suspicious about the 5 out of 5 star user reviews on every product going. I recently saw a keynote, where 2 very similar forums launched at the same time, one moderated and one not. 1 year on, the forum that wasn’t moderated had six times the monthly traffic. People like some freedom when they’re giving you content.

Depending how you’re operating, you can take as many risks as you like, all the way to making black hat versions of your website (suicide sites). Make sure you separate these entities well away from your core troops (different servers and WHOIS) so they are not traceable, but any noise you can make will disrupt and demoralise the enemy. This tactic may not be appropriate in all circumstances, however if you’re competing with an e-commerce site, why not make your genuine article site while working on a few blackhat suicide versions? So what if they get banned after a few months? You’ll have made some money and damaged the enemy.

Weakness #3:Large Armies Are Slow To Manoeuvre

Battle Map

Large companies regularly have this trait in common. It takes them absolutely fucking ages, to do the most simple of things. If the colour of the text is going to be changed you’ll need a pre-meeting, a meeting, a post-meeting debrief, a spec produced, changed, put in a developer queue, tested, have a review meeting, blah blah.

The enemy is likely to be dependent on multiple sources when they need something changed. To have changes done quickly it will likely cost them an arm and leg, infrastructure changes are avoided like trench foot. Exploit this weakness to the fullest.

Take the time to evolve your website, if there are beneficial changes, make them. If there’s something in the news about your niche, respond to it. If there’s breaking news, get it out first. You can move quickly without encumbrance and seize the initiative while they’re still packing their bergens. Carpe Diem, Comrade.

Weakness #4:Lots Of Soldiers = Lots Of Cannon Fodder

Dads Army

While chasing profits and having to maintain a large work force, many companies try to save money by hiring slightly cheaper staff, or “just as good as” guys. That’s right, they’re taking rookie soldiers and putting them on the front line.

As any good General knows, sending untrained troops into battle is no better than herding sheep onto the front line, you’re going to lose. Hard. It may be that the enemy has got a lot of adept people working for them, but there have been communication problems between the ideas guy and the end developer. I have yet to see a website that has been built by a non-web specialist company that is flawless.

Spend time looking around the enemy’s terrain, see what they have done well and do it yourself. Immediately benefit from their expensive end-user research, at no cost to yourself. Find what they’ve done badly and improve it on your site. It seems that coming second carries with it, its own set of advantages.

Large armies tend to be sloppy, assuming victory by sheer size. Take all of their small weaknesses, poor internal linking, non-SEO friendly URLs, no use of “nofollow” tags and stack them so you have a distinctive advantage. The underdog leaves no bone un- scavenged.

Weakness #5:Large Armies Leave Big Tracks

Footprints in Snow

A large army cannot move undetected and thus it is easy to track their movements. Once you have your website battle ready, why not check out the enemy’s backlink profile in Yahoo! Site Explorer? A lovely, juicy list of their entire link building activity. You’ll want to get on that procuring links from every source they received links from, so you’ll very quickly draw even. If they are actively link building, take note of the kind of sites they are targeting.

Pay special attention if there are any “suspicious” links in there. You know the type, site-wide links from ring tone websites, MySpace Layout websites or obvious link networks. If there are, it is your civic duty to report these war crimes under the Google Convention! You’ll find cash-rich companies tend to involve themselves in these tactics quite quickly as it seems the most cost-efficient way for them to operate, so if you catch em, get em in stocks, pronto.

Weakness #6:Large Armies Have Slower Communications

Army Radio Operator

It is likely that a lot of the time, the left hand won’t know what the right is doing. Staff working at large companies won’t be able to communicate their detailed daily operations to each other. Use this along with any skill shortages and your previously gathered intelligence on what sites they link up with.

Set some booby-traps for them to walk right into! Create a few quick websites with some mashed up content that fits the profile of sites they want linking to them. Get in contact and offer a link from your homepage to their website, if they link to an obscure article on your website.

Of course, on your homepage you can use “X-Robots” in your header-delivery to nofollow any links on that page, which will be totally undetectable by nofollow plugins, or even by viewing the source code. The only way they’ll discover it is if they view the header information being sent by the site, which they won’t of course. Once you’ve done your link exchange, you’ve got 2 options:

1) Spring the booby trap! Why not 301 that page they’ve linked to, to a spammy blackhat website. Google will love that, along with their visitors!

2) Use their own resources against them! Or you could 301 that page to your own website, so the enemy is very kindly helping your efforts.

The great thing is that this will work dozens of times. Dealing with different people each time, they enemy won’t know what’s going on until it’s too late and they’ll soon start fearing other websites, not knowing who will help or harm them!

The Ongoing War

These are just a few of the many weaknesses that plague large company websites. I hope I have inspired you to take up arms against your would-be oppressors. When you divide and conquer, you’ll find that you can win a lot of battles against seemingly impervious web-giants and eventually bring them to their knees.

Ernesto Che Guevara
(Just stay out of Bolivia)

Posted in Black Hat, Google, Grey Hat, Marketing Insights, Research & Analytics, Search Engine Optimisation | 18 Comments »

SEO Ranking Factors

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Right, lets kick this thing in the nuts. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a decent list of SEO Ranking Factors and more specifically, tell me exactly what you need to rank for a key phrase?

Well, SEOMoz went and done this.

You’ve probably all seen it before, the famous SEOMoz Search Ranking Factors, the highly regarded opinions of 37 leaders of search spread over a bunch of questions. It sounds slick, it looks cool and it’s a great introduction to SEO. There is, however, a rather major problem. None of them pissing agree! 37 leaders in search, closed ended questions, yet almost ALL of the answers have only “average agreement”, just look at the pie charts at the end, there is massive dispute between the correct answer.

I find this interesting. It leaves two possibilities

1) SEOMoz’s questions are flawed and there is no “correct” answer – this kind of kills the whole point of the project.

2) If there is a “correct” answer, then it would seem that 25%-50% of “leading people in search” don’t know WTF they are talking about.

Now before I continue, I’m not going to claim I have all the answers, far, far from it. I do some stuff and that stuff works well for me. The other thing I would like to point out is that I actually really like the SEOMoz blog and I think they provide extremely high quality content in high frequency, which is bloody hard to do. So please no flaming when I seem to be bashing their hard work, I’m simply pointing out a few things rather crudely. Oh, they’re nice people too, Jane is very polite when I stalk her on Facebook IM.

Anyway, back to slating. I think it is very hard to give quality answers to questions such as, how does page update frequency effect ranking? From my experience, I’ve found Google quite adaptive in knowing, based on my search query, whether it should serve me a “fresh” page or one that’s collecting dust. Eli from BlueHatSEO has also made some convincing arguments that the “optimum” update frequency of a page depends on your sector/niche.

Also, these things change. Regulary. Those clever beardies at Google are playing with those knobs and dials all the time. Bastards.

Okay, I now hate you for slating SEOMoz, do you have anything useful to say?
Maybe? Maybe not. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to talk about some projects I’m working on at the moment and one of these is specifically aimed at getting some SEO Ranking Factors answers.

I could of course just give what I believe to be the “correct” answers to the SEO Ranking Factors questions, but like everyone else, I’d be limited to my own SEO experience. We need more data, more testing, more evidence.

There’s loads of little tools floating around the net that will tell you little things like, if you have duplicate meta descriptions, your “keyword density” (hah), how many links you have, all that stuff. Then you’ll get some really helpful advice like “ShitBOT has detected your keyword only 3.22% on this page, you should mention your keyword 4.292255% for optimum Googleness”. Yes, well. Time to fuck off ShitBOT. These tools are kind of fragmented over the net, so it would take ages to run all 101 to build up a complete “profile” of your website, which really… Wouldn’t tell you all that much. It wouldn’t tell you much because you’re only looking at your own website, your own ripples in the pond. You need to zoom out a bit, get in a ship and sail back a bit, then maybe put your ship in a shuttle, blast off until you can see the entire ocean.

Well, crap. It all looks different from here..

Creating a Technological Terror
I can’t do this project alone. Fortunately, one of the smartest SEO people I know moved all the way across the country to my fine city and is going to help.

Here we go….

1) Enter the keyword you would like to rank for.

2) We will grab the top 50 sites in Google for this search term.

2) i) First of all, we will do a basic profile of these sites, very similar, but a bit more depth than the data SEOQuake will give you. So things like domain age, number of sites linking to domain, how these links are spread within the site, page titles, amount of content, update frequency, PageRank etc. We’ll also dig a bit deeper and take titles and content from pages that rank for these key phrases and store them for later.

2) ii) The real work begins here. For each one of these sites that rank, we are going to look at the second tier, which I don’t see many people doing. We are going to analyse all of the types of sites that link to these sites that rank well. This will involve: Doing the basics, such as looking at their vital stats, so their PR, links, age of domain, TLD and indexed pages.

Then we’re going to take this a step further. We are going to be scanning for footprints to work out the type of link. This means, is it an image link? Is it a link from a known social news site like Digg or Reddit? Is it a link from a social bookmarking site like StumbleUpon or Delicious? Is it a link from a blog? Is it a link from a forum? A known news site? Is it a link from a generic content page? If so, lets use some language processing and try and determine if it’s a link from a related content page, or a random ringtones page. Cache all of this data.

3) We have a huge amount of data now, we need to process it. Ranking for the keyterm casino, lets put it onto a graph showing their actual ranking for this keyterm vs their on page vital stats. Lets see the ranking vs the types of links they have. Lets see how the sites rank vs the amount of links, the age of links etc.etc…

4) We can take this processing to any level needed. Lets pool together all the data we have of the 50 sites and take averages. What do they have in common for this search term? Are these common ranking factors shared between totally different niches and keywords?

This is the type of information that I think I know. I think it would be valuable to know the information I know (=

So I guess you can expect a lot of playing with the Google Charts API, scatter graphs showing link velocity against domain age and total links and all that shit.

You get the idea.

There’s actually all other kind of secondary analysis that can be pumped into this data. For instance, even though it’s a kind of made up term, I think “TrustRank” has some sauce behind it. (There’s a good PDF on TrustRank here). Lets think of it in very, very simple, non-mathematical terms for a moment.

One fairly basic rule of thumb for the web can be that a trusted (“good”) site will generally not link to a “bad” (spam, malware, crap) site. It makes sense, generally very high quality websites vet the other sites that they link to. So it makes sense that Google select a number of “seed” sites and give them a special bit of “trust” juice, which says that whatever site this one links to, is very likely to be of good quality. This trend continues down the chain, but obviously the further down this chain you get, the more and more likely it is that this rule will be broken and someone (maybe even accidentally) will link to what Google considers a “bad” website. For this reason, the (and I use this terminology loosely) “Trust” that is passed on will be dampened at each tier. This allows a margin for calculated error, so if they chain in essence is broken, the algorithm maintains its quality, because it allows for this.

I think most people could name some big, trusted websites. Why not take time to research these sites, really trusted authority sites – one’s that it’s at least a fair bet has some of this magical Trust? Say we have a list of ten of these sites, why not crawl them and get a list of every URL that they link to? Why not then crawl all of these URLs and get a list of all the sites THEY link to? Why not grab the first 3 or 4 “tiers” of sites? Great now, you’ve probably got a few million URLs. Why not let Google help us? Lets query this URLs against the keywords we’re targeting. What you’re left with is a list of pages from (hopefully) trusted domains, that are related to your niche. The holy grail of whitehat link building. Now pester them like a bastard for links! Offer content, blowjobs, whatever it takes!

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we took this list of possible Trusted sites and tied in this theory with how many of our tendrials of trusted networks link to our high-ranking pages? There’s a lot of possibilities here.

This project will be taking up a significant chunk of my time over the next months. Maybe the data will be shit and we won’t find any patterns and it will be a giant waste of time. At least then I can say with confidence that SEO is actually just charm-glasping, pointy hat-wearing, pole chanting black art that so many businesses seem to think it is. At least I’ll be one step closer to finding out.

Apologies once again to SEOMoz if you took offense. I love you x

Posted in Blogging, Google, Marketing Insights, Research & Analytics, Search Engine Optimisation, Social Marketing, White Hat | 10 Comments »

SEO Job Vacancies (UK)

Monday, March 17th, 2008

As a lot of you know, apart from doing my own sexy thing, I work as the Online Marketing Manager at Further. To be honest, I’ve never been much of a “career” person and I’ve had a pretty diverse set of jobs from bowling alleys to solicitors to network administrating. In my mere 24 (25 soon!) years on this planet, I’ve discovered some things about work and myself:

1) I get tend to get bored with jobs. Fast.

2) Generally speaking, the people who get “promoted” in jobs aren’t the most talented people. They’re the people that kiss the most arse, sell themselves well and generally fuckwit themselves through life.

3) Office politics makes me sick to guts and the way people are managed normally gives rise to different social groups within a company, much like a school playground.

4) Large companies (generally speaking) = beaucracy = nothing ever gets done, the old is recycled and new ideas have the creativity squeezed out of them.

5) Money doesn’t bother me overly. If I thought I’d be happier working on an Emu farm in Nong Pu, I’d probably give it a go.

6) It doesn’t really matter how much you earn – your lifestyle has a scary way of adjusting and eating up and spare notes you might find yourself in possession. I look at extra money as potential free time, not numbers on a screen.

This all sounds quite hippocritical as I work very hard to make money and I’m always talking about making money on the Internet. The fact is, I think the best thing is the process – taking this vast network of people on the end of screens all around the world, working out what they’re looking for, how they do it and building business models around it. All from your own humble computer, creating something that millions of people can read, use, watch and interact with. The money is a bonus, but it’s the process, which is challenging, ever evolving and infinitely rewarding that keeps me doing it.

All of those rather cynical things I’ve said about employment (which I’m sure a psychologist would put down to underlying personality defects), drove me to learn enough to become financially self-supporting if needs be. However, last year I got interested in Further because of what I’d heard about them from people who worked there. Working from home has its benefits, but long term can be very isolated (especially when all your friends are at work during the day!) and can lead to stagnation as you can get trapped into only learning what you need to, rather than a broader holisitic view of the web.

So, I applied and was quite impressed and after a couple of months of e-mailing, I joined the Further team and never looked back.

Here’s some things I enjoy about working at Further:

-> There’s a really nice “open” office environment, which means there aren’t any “no talking” signs or clock watching. This means we get a healthy flow of ideas around the office and a smattering of interesting conversations/debates.

-> The current team/staff/people are great. Everyone is interested in what everyone else is doing and how they do it. Understanding what everyone else in a company is doing helps things run really smoothly and helps everyone develop their skills naturally.

-> New ideas are encouraged and the company is prepared to invest time/resources into internal projects. So if you think you’ve got the next big thing in your grey matter, Further will help you make it a reality.

-> There’s a brilliant balance of company strategy and flexibility. Everyone knows what we’re trying to achieve and how we’re going to get there, but there’s no reason it can’t be fun.

-> There’s great staff packages and free tea and coffee.

-> I’ve learnt more in the past few months from colleagues than I ever would have on my own. Whether it’s them telling me something, watching how the Further chiefs go about business or I’ve been inspired to close a knowledge gap.

As you hopefully guessed by the post title, we’re looking to expand our family and hire some SEO gurus and SEO juniors. It’s an office based role, so you’ll need to be within commuting distance of Norwich – or be prepared to move. (Our latest new induction, Ryan moved all the way from Wales to come and join us!)

So, if this sound like your bag, here’s what’s on offer:

Search Engine Marketing Specialists £20K+ DOE

Working as part of the fast expanding Search Engine Marketing Team, the successful candidates will be responsible for the execution of internal and client marketing campaigns. They will undertake integrated marketing projects, bringing their skills of organic search engine optimisation to the mix.

Currently 2 positions available.

Key skills required:

* 1yr+ Experience in search engine marketing experience with designing search engine friendly infrastructure
* Excellent knowledge of on and off-site optimisation experience and creativity with link building practises
* Track record of achieving good rankings in major search engines Analytical skills and experience using stat tracking packages
* Good understanding of HTML/CSS

Also any experience in the following would be favourable:

* Paid search platforms
* Monetisation strategies & platforms (CPC, CPA, CPM)
* Client/server-side programming (e.g. JavaScript, PHP, .Net)
* Web copywriting experience
* Marketing experience
* Viral / Social Media Optimisation experience
* Sense of humour

Search Engine Marketing Junior – up to £16K

Further is looking to expand its Search Engine Marketing Team with an entry-level search engine marketer. The successful candidate will receive full training in both paid and organic search practises and “hands on” client experience.

Key skills required:

* Basic knowledge of HTML/CSS
* Excellent English
* Good analytical/organisational skills
* Marketing & Business minded
* Creative thinker
* An interest in web technologies & search engines
* Sense of humour

You can see our full vacancies here or pop me an e-mail to: [email protected]

Posted in Black Hat, Digerati News, Google, Grey Hat, Marketing Insights, Microsoft, Research & Analytics, Search Engine Optimisation, Social Marketing, White Hat, Yahoo | 9 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 »