Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Service and Exchange: Some social media sites just don't get it.

Got into a couple of new social sites today and they basically sucked.

Reason? They were pristine Ivory towers. Also known as silos. You couldn't link other sites in or import even tiny parts of your lifestream - and no one could get a link from you to check out. Everything was internal.

Much like the students above - a very inward facing group with their own little set of agreements which no one else makes much sense of.

The problem is that the group doesn't contribute outward and so will eventually wither and die off. Groups need to both service and exchange, internally and externally in order to survive and expand.

One of these groups had a good idea - to get people in to write reviews. Only problem was - they were essentially whoring. The people writing the reviews got really nothing out of it. These guys wanted to attract people who needed reviews of stuff. So it's a cute, but dead, idea. It's not social except within that tiny group of people who want to write reviews in 800 characters or more. If you could only live in Twitter and couldn't post your blogs or import your Friend Feed - or even have tinyurl links to share. Boring. Boring and whoring.

Probably only Facebook and FriendFeed really get this. (Google's social attempts are also probably on the mark all except they were started by a company, not a bunch of like-minded individuals and then popularly adopted.)

"Social" has gone beyond simply getting along with people around you. Now it's finding and building your own niche of like-minded people. And you are going to have several niches. Great for marketing, since more and different products can be offered and exchanged easily.

Nothing like the Internet for setting things on their ear, eh?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Article Marketing - Dusting off an old stand-by

Just like meeting an old friend again - or picking up an old baseball mitt and ball, remembering the days of sunshine-sprinkled catch and impromptu games with the ball going wild and no one playing that position...

Picked up Article marketing more or less as a way to force myself past the death of one old machine (two hard-drives gone) and another one on the mend (actually, I have to get out the manual to mend it, still.)

As well, I needed to translate some great over-long blog posts into tight prose needed for articles, podcasts, and videos. So writing articles seemed the best way to try it out.

I found that I'd not submitted any articles since last fall. And nothing really significant in any volume for well over a year. But I'd been busy with research and it was a perfect time to try out these new tools I'd assembled (yes, I know, men and their tools...)

So I took advantage of this opportunity to cobble everything together and blog all about it for you.

There's a lot to cover about article marketing, so much that it's filled a single volume out of the Online Millionaire set of books (anybody have a better name for that subject, please let me know...) Today we are simply going to cover a simple recipe for producing non-duplicative articles and submitting them to multiple directories.

What's non-duplicative?

Non-duplicative articles isn't writing the same one over and over and over. How tedious and boring, that would be. It's taking your original article (short essay) and working out how to make it say the same thing with different words for every article directory you want to submit it to - well, at least those which show up on the top Google standings.

Some authors (namely Michael Campbell of "Striking it Niche" and "Nothing but 'Net" fame) found that the Google penalties for duplicative content fell out if around 40% of an article was changed out. Articles didn't have to be entirely fresh (which gives hope for all those PLR article collections which are clogging your hard-drives right now.)

That being said, how do we write an article?

Same as always - get an inspiration and hammer it out before it passes. You can write this on anything. More recently, I've been excited by the use of Google Docs, which is based on OpenOffice. This way, as long as you have an internet connection, you have all your documents all neatly (or not) organized and available.

But at some point, you are going to have to convert this to pure, straight text. Here's where I recommend NoteTab (http://www.notetab.com). And I say to get the free version, and look around for pre-5.0 version. (Because I use their feature to strip out HTML tags, which disappeared from the free version after 4.95 or thereabouts.) But you can use Note Pad in Windows or any other straight text editor. You want something which will take the straight text out of copied data and paste it into some other application without the formatting included. A filter, nothing more or less. (And it helps if that application will count words for you - something we'll find useful in meeting various article directory word limits.)

This article writing also assumes that you've already done your research and picked out your niche, found it's profitable keywords and still were inspired enough to crank out some copy.

Take a second and look at Top 50 Article Directories by Traffic, PageRank. This is a regularly updated list which gives you an idea of the huge amount of article directories and which ones have clawed their way up to the top by providing far more relevance and service. You can see right now, that even if you wanted to just post at each of these, you are going to have to be very creative for a long period of time in order to come up with original articles for each of them.

Save your fingers - let a spreadsheet do your creating.

There is a broad subject of article spinners, which are programs that simply replace various words with synonyms and so "spin" a new article out of old cloth. Problem is, they look and smell like old cloth that's been patched several times too many. They don't have the same quality as actually human-edited. Like someone put the article through a foreign language translator and then back. Awful, unreadable stuff. Means people aren't going to read down to your resource block and click on your links there.

Enter Chris Smith (http://profitswithchris.com) and his article-rewriter. (Free download from link.) He tackled the problem of editing articles head-on and came up with an elegant solution. He got a spreadsheet to use some simple math formulas and generate new versions of your original article. You simply separate the article into short paragraphs or sentences and then create two more versions of each of these. The random math function he's built in takes your three versions of that article and then recombines them by their paragraphs into different formats. He figures you get well over 200 different versions of each original and it's two additionals.

But are they at least 40% different?

Lets go to Dupe-Free Pro - another free download, ad-supported. This great tool has two panels left and right where you plug in your original article on one side and your newly re-written article on the other. Hit the Compare button and you'll quickly see by what percentage the new version is identical to the original. If you come up with more than 60% or so, just go back to your article re-writer and generate a new one.

This is where your NoteTab (plain text) editor comes in. Copy/paste from article rewriter into NoteTab, then copy/paste from there into DupeFree Pro. Otherwise, you can wind up with some messy looking stuff, since there's some formatting on the spreadsheet you don't really want.

But you now have the capability to generate new versions at will. Far more than you need.

Go to eZineArticles and enter your first one. Means you have to sign up.

Now take the next on the list and post your newly re-written version. Make sure you change the headline and the summary blurb. Otherwise, it's just copy/paste. (You still have it in your NoteTab editor.)

Next article directory, generate a new re-written article, change the headline and blurb slightly - and so on, etc.

Who, me - cheat?

Isn't this cheating? Well, did you actually write each article yourself? Are they different enough that Google isn't going to penalize you or the article directory for duplicative content? Then what's the problem?

Ok, then, there's still more. How about the thousand or so remaining article directories out there?

Here's my tip. Give the top of the heap your best shot, always. Most of these are completely uniquely coded and have to be hand-entered, which takes time. But an interesting point is that the lower rankings mostly run on the same basic script.

Save your time, submit to the multitudes semi-automatically.

There is another body of data called article submitters. These automate the production. Essentially they work because there are only a handful of scripts which people use to create article directories. The largest majority of these are based on Article Dashboard's free script.

In my searches and trials, I found one Article Submitter which did the trick and was worth paying for (less than $50. Simply because they re-coded an existing codebase (yes, there are tons of article submitters out there just with this name) and have continually updated their product. You want to buy support, not headaches and expire-ware. This one is from SubmitSuite.com. And yes, they have additional products.

What this does is take a single article and post in on around 1000 directories if you want.

I say it's semi-automatic, as it is trying to act like a human would and every now and then hangs when a website isn't delivered right on time. And some websites simply go "4 legs up" every now and then. So keep it open on your desktop (or another monitor or computer) so you can debug it from time to time.

Wait - isn't this just duplicate stuff again?

Why do we want to post duplicative content after all that work? Is it, like Clinton, just because we can? No.

My argument is this:

Look at the Bell Curve and the Long Tail. The bulk of your traffic is going to come from a few sources. Practically, the top 5-10-15 article directories are the only ones which will routinely send you traffic - if you routinely post to them. The rest of the article directories have very nichefied traffic and loyal readers who go there first for data. Just the way it is.

You are only going to get drips and drops of traffic from these niche sites. Posting by hand isn't efficient to do 500 or so article directories at a go. In practice, because these directories are so niche-oriented, I actually only get about 150 or so posted from any single article. Cat-article directories don't want the same articles as Real Estate article directories. And their clients don't search through other directories for their specialty articles, either.

But if I'm a cat fancier article writer, I'd post my original articles on the Big Box article directories and also a copy on any cat-niche article directories as well. Cover all your bases.

Article Submitter from Submit Suite allows you to help the niche directories build up their services while you also have set up your main supply of paying traffic through the top article directories. (If you want more on this subject, check out my work over a year ago on article directories and article submitters.)

- - - -

All that great work deserved an update - and so there you have it.

The advantage of posting articles is that it gives you back links and potential traffic for years to come. Like blogs, you have to maintain a constant supply of content, as the new articles are featured and older articles archived. Human nature, again. (Otherwise, used bookstores would always be the first place we look.)

But again, this is really the point of creating once and publishing many, many times. Your job as content creator is to be first in all these various venues with your brilliant ideas to share.

Articles are another vital venue to get those potential viewers who want this particular type of data delivered in that particular content-type. And it's our good fortune to be able to satisy their needs.

Good Hunting, then.

Update: Skip this whole subject. Article Directories aren't worth the extra effort. Most of the backlinks are no-follow. Meanwhile, you can autopost to a whole string of blogs via Posterous with the same content and do-follow links - while also publishing to Facebook and Twitter. So better SEO results can be had with less effort. And "the best" have to be individually posted to. Don't bother wasting your time with Article Directories. 

One exception - the 2 or 3 who accept bulk submissions. Meaning you could take your earlier material and set it up into a format they'd accept - and you'd then have some relatively cheap backlinks (and you could probably vary these with and within each submission) content re-publishing with nearly as little effort as the above - but only after you've already autoposted everywhere you could. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Care and Feeding of Social Media: a remote blog-outpost primer

Sure, social media dominates Google - by their choice. Because social media already has been "vetted" by others and so is popular. And Google simply follows things that are popular and helps others find them.

Homework for our first lesson is to get a copy of "Bending the Web" from Jack Humphrey. While you're out there searching, find a copy of his "60 day plan" in PDF format so you get an even broader clue about what he's talking about.

Essentially, the point is to get your content on as many other sites as possible for any given keyword.

Now, this video (which I did a year ago - my how Internet time flies) shows you a simple route to do this:

But your mileage may vary. For this example, I didn't take some hot keyword with a lot of competition or even figured out how to push a particular product with it. The general idea is there, though - write your content once, publish it many ways as fast as you can. And make sure it all links with the same keyword to the site you are promoting.

Good Hunting!

Use of remote blogs to subvert someone's keyword ownership

The only thing missing in that headline is "dominate".
(But the photo's worth a thousand links...)

Unlikely theory and potential Black Hat SEO use - post removed...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Using Google bookmarks to track your social outposts

(At the outset, I have to apologize for the housekeeping over at robertworstell.com - going through some changes as I optimize the site for better bandwidth consumption. And generally evolve it.)

But the point I wanted to bring up tonight is using that Google Toolbar with it's bookmark function to track your own social outposts.

Social outposts is a term coined (more or less) by Chris Brogan. Essentially, the social sites you visit and leave your profile at are advance scouting parties for your content-production-line.

Trick is that you can sign up for stuff and then forget where you'd been a month later. So these various places are just sitting out there - while you've been moving on and creating all sorts of content everywhere else.

. . . .

The trick is to be valuable with your content - and release it in valuable formats.

Using your Google Toolbar with it's bookmarking simplicity looks to be a key tool to use.

Good Hunting!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Personal Computer Woes: upgrades and old machines - too full

When it rains it pours - two computers down out of four, and the other is running Win98...

Tried about five more times to get Ubuntu upgrades on my server - but it still sticks at boot. Next is to take two of the hard-drives out and make it work on the one that's left.

Other machine that went south today (just the Main HD, actually) is running on another Ubuntu Live CD so I can either copy (too big) or delete some files off it so it will run again. XP just blue screens on me. And there's some ominous clunking going on down there, so I expect the end is soon...

One other note: I think WordPress is top-heavy. Seems again I've caused a bandwidth problem simply by accessing my own admin page on WP - plus posting from within that platform instead of outside it. This one on a different host than the other.

Solution is to use Scribe-Fire to post to it (maybe Blogger, though this doesn't always work) and then tweak the settings once it's there. Keeps my own access to a minimum.

But what I'm trying to do with that site is to lower it's bandwidth - however, I have to access the admin to do that.

Still using Yslow to see how I can speed things up. However, the cache I use gets in the way when I want to see changes - and then my time goes up if I turn it off. (I'm sure I'll figure it out soon enough.)

. . . .

Good Hunting!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wordpress Optimization: speed up or get out of the way

(While this is another one of these technical posts, I'm posting my notes as I run into getting a web business operating online - so you can learn from my efforts and mistakes.)

Ran into this when running Wordpress MU on a site (setting up subdomain mini-sites) and finding all about bandwidth - by running out in the first week of a new month. And then again, the second week. Got it bumped up twice, but it took me off my regular game of posting content over into figuring out how to optimize a site for fast loading. (And this was with just two mini-sites running...)

Luckily, the Internet is full of answers. Lots of surfing with different sites (sorry I can't link to you all) gave me a few simple rules:
  • Smaller is faster.
  • Don't call up more than you want to chew.
  • No pix, no slows.
Smaller is faster.
Essentially, the static html page, text only, is the fastest loading page. The less content, the faster it loads. Kinda like security - if nothing gets through, then nothing can get leaked.

Obviously, since we like nice graphics and nice-looking text, and like to talk to each other - the above statements aren't workable.

Next up from that - CSS-styled pages which look nice but don't take a lot of time to load - meaning the server doesn't have to work at bringing these up. Means you want to compress all the line-breaks and white space out of these CSS pages so that they are more machine-friendly (and nearly impossible to read or edit.)

Don't call up more than you can chew.
Finish off your CSS loading before you call any Javascript - and keep those calls to a minimum. Again, ideally your CSS would be a single document, but the reality is that you have different style sheets for different aspects of the site - human editing benefits, mostly (although some would argue with me on that).

Javascript should load last so the page is there to be read, even if other stuff is coming in the background.

Enter database calls. Same deal. The more you call to your database, the slower the page is to load, and also you are going to use up more bandwidth. So your database has to be optimized internally so that it finds the data quickly and efficiently. Extra tables and entries are removed, which keep the files small and quickly accessed.

No pix, no slows.
Minimalist designs tend to be faster, because a single graphic can be bigger than the entire text on the rest of the page. The more graphics and icons you have on a page, the slower it's going to load.

Your graphics - if you have to have them - should be compressed as much as possible without degrading their quality. (And a two-color GIF still rules.) However, you can do a lot with colors in CSS, so don't think you're limited to a monochrome scene to get a fast-loading page.

While people like pictures on their sites - think these over carefully before you drop a bunch of stuff in there to make it look "pretty".

- - - -

- - - -
Tricks and Recommendations:
  1. Host your images on another site or a subdomain - this way they load in parallel to your text body.
  2. Host your feeds on Feedburner - doesn't speed up your page loads, but does preserve your bandwidth.
  3. Don't use an ecommerce plug-in on your WordPress install - host these externally as well. Scripts like ZenCart are amazingly fast as they are designed to specifically deal with ecommerce. WordPress is designed around blogging and ease of use. Make your external ecommerce script do that heavy lifting. (The ecommerce plug-in I used to use had all sorts of javascript calls - when I finally got under the hood to look at it. Now I'm looking at a simple PayPal button to do everything I want - but the jury is still out on that...)
  4. Always, always refine by function - actual use - rather than bells and whistles. Practically, leave entertainment on entertainment sites and then link or embed them. Let them pay the bandwidth and give you a sitelink as well.
  5. Skip ads, unless they are text links. a) People continue to look at fewer and fewer ads. b) Most are graphic heavy or javascript "endowed". c) Content pre-sells best - then link to the page which will give you PPC or affiliate commissions. (Adsense is still notoriously poor-paying.)
Bottom line:
Serve optimized text only from your server, then call to other hosts for the extras. Sounds austere - but if you keep these in mind with your designs, you won't have the big problems later when you have to find out how to make your site's bandwidth footprint much smaller out of necessity. (And I've already had a domain kicked off one host for violating their *ahem* terms of aggrement - you get what you pay for.)

Good Luck - and Good Surfing!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Small Business Marketing Insight Tip #9 - Remote Blog Outposts

A short FAQ about the care and feeding of remote blogs.

What are remote blogs and why?

When you use an IR keyboard and large screen TV so you can blog from your bed - remotely... (grin)

Have fun - don't take social media engineering too seriously... Some of these theories just don't work in practice.