Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PageRank & User Data

SEO by the Sea writes that Yahoo Replaces PageRank Assumptions with User Data. I find the post interesting, mainly because I, like most of those who commented, was under the assumption that Google was already doing something like this already.

If Yahoo gets the patent (they've only just applied for it), this would mean that it is somehow different from what Google is using (or, very unlikely, that Google 'forgot' to patent it themselves). But in any case, the conversation at SEO by the Sea is quite interesting; if only to further prove that quantifying human behavior and constructing an equation to take in all the factors discussed is more math than I want to do.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Heated Rants & Cool Kids: Social Bookmarking

In this most recent episode of, "Waaa, it's hard to be an adult webmaster or blogger..."

Sara alerted me to Fleshbot's Why Does Digg Hate Porn (which, by the way, finally made me get off my figurative ass and audition for ability to post comments at Fleshbot), and so the saga continues.

Actually, there are two sagas here; one is the dealio with adult sites and the old censorship condom, and the other is the matter of social networking. Heck, there's a few more, but I'll start with these two and, driving my former English profs to rend their clothing and pull their hair, I'll not include them in the opening summary but just get to the others when I do.

Get a beverage and settle in; this is going to be a long post.

It's easy to take it personally when content is not accepted by sites like Digg; our sites/companies are like our babies and we don't like the other kids rejecting them. But let's look at things from their point of view: Somebody is gonna scream bloody hell and they don't want the trouble.
Case Study: Fark once had categories called "Boobies" and "Weeners" which was, as you imagine, links to softcore naked boobs and dicks (respectively, if not respectfully) and adult conversations or links. But advertisers would complain, prompting Fark to make changes.

First they went with the sneaky approach. When they got a new advertiser, they stopped publishing "Boobies" & "Weeners" for a few weeks, then figuring the advertisers had tired of watching their ad on Fark, they resumed the "Boobies" & "Weeners" postings. But eventually, either they tired of such monitoring or continued to get flack at Fark HQ, and they stopped.

Both "Boobies" and "Weeners" have been moved to Foobies.com, leaving Fark more acceptable to advertisers. (Interestingly, "Boobies" always out-number "Weeners" ~ and I'm not talking 2-1 as anatomy suggests. Is this proof that porn pics are still more a man-thing than some media would tell you? I'll get to those myths later; remind me.)

Fark went where the money was. Can you blame other social sites for doing the same?
Now, before you start yelping how other sites ~ sites even 'worse' than yours ~ get to sit at the cool kids' table, let me remind you that these are social sites and, as noted in the Fleshbot comments, you're in if one of the cool kids lets you in. Which all goes back to doing your research to discover who the quarterbacks and prom queens are (the marketing term for these people are 'influencers').

Remember, the Internet isn't much different than the real world; you just can't invite yourself to the cool kids' table, you must be asked.

Now, many folks will tell you that you just need to become a member and submit your link yourself. You join the social network, you post the link, and let others bump it up and help you drive the traffic. That's part of the 'poo' in Web Poo Point Doh.

Members know if you are really a member or if you're a user, a poser, a plant, a shill ~ a fake. To be a member, you have to be a member. You have to have actual, real conversations & make friends. In social networks this means leaving comments, ranking other links, messaging and using all the frills that said network provides to members. Over time, you'll learn what all the cool kids are into, what the lingo is, what the insider jokes and nicknames are, and assimilate in a myriad of ways. But even then, you may not get your link liked.

Why?

Because it's just like the real world, kiddos. You can join the new school, go to all the football games, but that won't make you prom king or queen.

So maybe you are really likable. Maybe you do fit in at this new school. But this is going to cost you a huge investment in time ~ so I hope you really like this place because you're going to have to show up at a lot of parties.

***

Recently (just hours before I made this post) my site, Sex-kitten.Net, had a link listed at Reddit ~ actually, at NSFW Reddit (which means it's Not Safe For Work). Nice, yes; but not just for me. This proves that some social bookmarking sites are open to adult linkage, but you may have to hunt for where they are allowed.

In some sort of twisted fate, the link the Reddit user put in was not the correct link and so it was taking people not to Shame, Shame, Shame; Shame of Fools (NWS) but to The Doctor (NWS). I have no idea how that happened and as tech was sleeping, I did a quick dirty fix by posting a note at the top of The Doctor, telling Reddit folks where to find the correct article. I mention this so you know that being slightly obsessive about your stats and refers can in fact be time well-spent.

Also in this Reddit experience was a reaffirmation that your link traffic may not benefit your site as you might think.

While (at the time of this post) no one has slammed or mocked the piece at Sex Kitten (which believe-you-me does happen), the increase in numbers is a quick thing. As soon as that little link of mine moves down the page, the light will cease to shine on my site.

In fact, that little light doesn't shine as brightly as you may imagine.

Instead of all those new readers scampering like kittens all over Sex Kitten, they came, read and left. As I write this there are no new comments (and don't say it's about registering there, I've seen this across platforms), and very few visit any additional pages on the site. Well, in this case, they may be seeing two pages; the bad link to The Doctor and then move on to the Shame piece as intended. But in general, you are darn lucky if 10% look at any other page of your site or post on your blog.

And the numbers are even less for any links off site.

This I know, 'cuz my refer logs tell me so.

(In this example, I also asked Secondhand Rose, who wrote Shame, to give me the numbers of refers coming to her blog from that piece; less than 2% at the time I wrote this.)

So why do so many people pray for such linkage? How do 'they' say that getting picked up by sites like Fleshbot, Reddit, Digg, Boing Boing etc., is the holy grail?

Well, links at such popular sites are good things. But moving from a one-hit-wonder to a popular site in your own right is rather like potato chips... Just one isn't enough.

Like traditional advertising, getting links at popular sites is a matter of awareness. See one ad for a movie and even if you were intrigued by it, you may forget about it and not go to see it; but see a number of them, and while you may not drop everything to line-up outside the theater, you're more likely to make plans to see it. That's how being featured at other sites is; the more often you are featured, the more links you get, the more people remember you and decide to adopt you somehow... buying your product or buying into your site (brand).

After seeing you a number of times, the big influencers may like you so much that they get your RSS and rush to be the first to post you themselves. (Cross your fingers!)

And if your content has broad enough appeal, enough of factor X for site 1, enough Y for site 2, etc., then your site, either that very same link or another page/post, will likely pass to another site as users troll sites for good stuff to pass onto their buddies. (Just like jokes or party invites travel from the cool kids' table to the locker room to the pompom squad.)

But all of this requires that you have content worthy of that influencer, that community, that site.

So stop reading here and get back to work creating your content. *wink*

Note: The Marketing Whore Newsletter, after a hiatus, will be sent tomorrow. So if you have not yet subscribed, please do so!

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Since We've All Been Discussing Sex Coming Out Of The Closet...

Friend & PSO, Secondhand Rose, has just had her interview published in Radical Vixen's "Sex Worker Solidarity" series. (At the bottom of each post, you'll find links to the other parts which have been published so far.)

I encourage any of you who identify as a sex worker to join the conversation. (It can only help with our 'authority' problem.)

Also, this reminds me of another excellent resource, Sex In The Public Square.

Remember, though, if you do not wish to make activism part of your business mission, consider that when selecting your user name and profile information and when leaving comments at Radical Vixen's blog.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

A Different Kind Of Authority For Sex Bloggers

Dear friend, Amanda Brooks, has an excellent post at Bound, Not Gagged (NWS). In it she discusses a certain big blogging kahuna...

A couple months ago a very popular “self-improvement” blogger wrote a post that mentioned prostitutes in Vegas. Although he knows it’s illegal in Vegas, he was under the impression (like most people) that the laws weren’t enforced much. He toyed with the idea of interviewing a prostitute and posting the interview on his blog. He was sure it would get a lot of Digg hits. And that’s the important thing.

I’m sure he wouldn’t have offered to pay for her time (What? Pay for anything with a sex worker? Doesn’t that incriminate you?), but would happily pick her brain for as long as it took him to run through his questions (most of which she’s probably tired of answering), just so he could get a lot of Digg hits and bring lots of traffic to his blog. Hopefully some of that traffic would click on his AdSense ads and affiliate links and bring him some money. That’s the really important thing.

...I don’t think we get on Digg much, if at all. I don’t know how many blogs (beyond sex blogs) link in. Or how many non-sex sites link in. I don’t live and die by Digg or Stumbleupon (because I’d already be dead); I feel there is a huge knowledge/awareness gap because we haven’t achieved the Web saturation and “authority” that a single navel-gazing blogger has.

Most adult blogs do not fare well on Digg, and the other social bookmarking tools. While some are clearly focused on technology or other subjects which are not predisposed to our topics, others just feel the need for social safety and apply a censorship condom. There are those which do not, but excluding us is more often by design than not.

But back to Amanda's story...
I e-mailed him privately and he was surprised to learn there are sex work blogs out there. He wasn’t personally aware of any and he attributed that to the lack of blog marketing skills of sex workers. That may be true, or it may be that he has never curiously searched Blogger or WordPress for call girl, escort, courtesan or sex worker. But still, the Internet masses have granted him “authority” on any topic and sex workers apparently lack it – even if blogging about sex work.
Wow. "The lack of blog marketing skills of sex worker"; that would hurt if it weren't so ludicrous.

The point is that this big kahuna is big in his own pond and forgets there are other ponds. I don't mind admitting I don't have the slightest clue who this guy is, and in fact, it illustrates my point. I don't ponder or search for "self-improvement", so I don't know him; he doesn't search for "sex workers", so he doesn't know us. Clearly he mistakes his too-lazy-to-search curiosity for an absence of information, sources or authorities on the subject. In short, he thinks his own micro-universe is The Universe.

But of course it's not.

I exist, Amanda exists, and there many more of us ~ some could argue too many of us. *wink*

Within our community, there are many big kahunas. Each with PageRank, Technorati "authority" and interviews to prove it. But this is not the type of authority Amanda is getting at.
I don’t know if a mass community considers BnG to be an “authority” or a “voice.” Where were the mainstream op-ed pieces from sex workers? (Not to imply that BnG is the only Internet outlet for sex workers, simply that it’s The Huffington Post for sex worker activists.)

Nor do I worship mainstream media. But to change minds, we need access to mainstream media. We need them to listen to us and allow various voices to be heard. What credentials are we lacking to be considered authorities on our own experiences? Once we target our media deficiencies, how can they be overcome?

I don’t have any answers. I’m only beginning to work through the questions. But I think it’s a vital issue because positive change will not happen for sex workers until mainstream America hears us.

Comments on Bound, Not Gagged (NWS) aside (I have no ill feelings for it as I'm obviously reading it; but I don't want to discuss how big it is in terms of ponds or micro universes), I feel the anguish in Amanda's questioning.

It's akin to the matter of your mission. At least part of it is.

Another part, or line of questioning, is about the situation all adult marketers face: We just aren't accepted &/or recognized by mainstream society.

We can't get press releases distributed, our ad purchasing power is limited, and we are thwarted on the Internet too (directory listings, social networks, link swaps, blog awards, etc.) because the censorship condom exists. We can't reach the masses to show we're OK unless they let us in; and they won't let us in because they fear us. I've been at this for a decade now, and believe me I know this chicken v. egg problem. (If only that censorship condom didn't exist ~ then we could fertilize that egg!)

But meanwhile, as we sex workers, sex bloggers, and adult business folks swim in our ponds or spin in our micro universes & connect with others, we continue to build authority.

And it's my hope that eventually our numbers, our issues, will force water to flow towards us, into their ponds, or orbits to be shared ~ whatever it takes for conversations to take place.

Meanwhile, we'll keep on keepin' on.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's More Important: Technorati, Alexa, Traffic, Pagerank or?

Alternate Title: Rankings, Smankings? (Part Two)

From my collected emails on the subject of what tools and stats are most vital, comes a set of questions like this:
I'm very confused with all the stats and ranking options... I'm not sure I have time to follow all of them. Which one or two are the most important? Isn't traffic, people actually visiting your site, the real bottom line?
Sure it's more important to get visitors to your site ~ if they arrive there looking for what you've got.

This is where monitoring your stats, referrals & tools comes in; there's no value in people arriving here for 'whores for hire' as I'm not that kind of whore. I know I may sound like I'm beating a dead horse here, but most of this reply comes down to your target market: Who are you trying to serve &/or appeal to?

If you are aiming for other professionals (such as media folks, buyers who might carry your product in their stores, those who buy ad space, investors etc.) then Alexa may be very important to you. While Alexa is by no means perfect, as noted here, it is free and so remains sort of a bible for many who are trying to evaluate the 'weight' of your site.

Alexa appeals to a more 'old white guy' mentality (not the uber rich sort; they use Nielsen//NetRatings), and thus is the wunderbar to beat when trying to appeal to conservative professionals or businesses. Alexa is also best for websites (as opposed to blogs). If any of this applies to you and your company, you'll want to monitor and increase your site's Alexa ranking.

If you are trying to be perceived as an authority, with a blog, then Technorati is the standard. Technorati basically monitors links to a blog ~ be they in sidebars or posts ~ and uses each unique site linking in as the way to determine authority. (More sites linking to you is more authoritative than several links from the same site.)

Technorati's ranking system is monitored by the hip and trendy, as well as those who need to know about the hip and trendy. Hip and trendy, of course, is relative ~ for the most part just knowing of and understanding the importance of blogs separates these folks from the old white guys at Alexa.

Technorati is widely used by both readers/consumers and professionals alike. Playing at Technorati (or at least monitoring the Top Searches, Top Tags and WTF posts) allows everyone (bloggers, media pros, consumers, companies, personalities, etc), to monitor trends ~ including bloggers, media pros, consumers, companies, personalities, etc. Some use Technorati as their blogging search engine, though they more likely refer to this as 'listening to conversations' because they are hip and trendy. (Though not uber hip & trendy or they'd be doing it at Twitter.)

PageRank is another way to measure your site's pull and power. This ranking system includes blogs and websites and is most often used by other webmasters and bloggers to evaluate the competition, SEO results, and/or another site for link swaps etc. It offers none of the options of play that Technorati does, nor does it have any appeal for readers/consumers really. In fact, I personally don't give much thought to page rank. This likely surprises no one, as I am no fan of SEO work. However, as your Technorati &/or Alexa rankings increase, so does (or so should) your page rank. So concentrate on one of both of them and PageRank takes care of itself. At least that's my philosophy.

What all of the above (and other sites/tools too) do is present collected data. It's up to you to interpret it ~ and put that knowledge to use.

As to what's more important to you, well, again that all comes down to what you're all about and who you want to reach ~ you'll want to use the tools which seem to most accurately reflect your potential customers.

If pressed to make a specific recommendation in a general sense it would be that each tool has merit and ideally you want each to increase your ranking in all of them. Working each tool or angle that fits your business is the best way to try to cover all the bases and to see where your marketing may be weakest.

However, remember that these are tools. They help you evaluate, offer means to monitor effects of programs/campaigns and changes in those programs/campaigns, but they are not, at the end of the day, success. Success is achieved when you receive sales ~ sales customers are happy with. For example, focusing on increasing your Technorati rank does not ensure that you'll increase your traffic or that someone from the media will contact you for a quote (and should you be blessed with the latter, that still doesn't ensure traffic or sales).

So use the tools, let them inspire and challenge you in running your business; but don't let them use & run you.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Affiliates Vs. Paid Posts

But Gracie, how are paid postings any different than a blogger promoting a site via affiliate programs? Well, that's rather like saying commission sales is like payola.

In commissioned sales, you are paid for your performance. You make a sale, you get a cut. The reason folks join individual affiliate programs is that they believe they can make money off of it. Why? Because they like it or that their readers will. They select programs they are naturally interested in, those which suit their blog theme or mission, those which seem to fit their style. They believe in it so they invest their time &/or effort in selling it for the reward of part of the sale.

Can they lie? Sure. For example, anyone can say they're a member of a paysite and they love it so much they're telling you to join to ~ when they've never done more than see a tour page. But then again, anyone anywhere can lie.

Can a blogger or webmaster be solicited to join an affiliate program? You bet we are. But since we aren't paid to select them, we decide if this would be a good fit for our readers ~ because that's how we'd get paid. We decide if the site or product is worthy of our lending our name to it ~ because our readers who got burned would sure let us know. At least the good ones do this.

In payola or pay per post, you are paid for your mention of the item ~ your 'play' of it, if you will. This means, whether you like the product or not, you get paid to mention it. Each and every time you mention it. And from any company willing to pay. (And many of these companies are equally oblivious to targeting in this "post about me now!" mentality; so honestly, what's the point?)

Some of you will argue that bloggers may pick and choose what they will mention, what paid postings they will do, but kids, let's be as honest as the day is long and admit that there are many people in the world (not just the Internet) who are hungry for money and will take what is offered. The incentive, the "pay," is to "post," not to be authentic, not to match blogger readership, or anything else.

We're not talking about small sums either. Affiliates generally pay a smaller amount per sale, whereas paid postings are larger sums up front or at least much quicker than waiting to reach an affiliate pay-out limit. The proverbial 'quick buck'. (Too bad their momma's didn't tell them there's really no such thing, because once the word gets out that you're only after a quick buck, who is gonna give a f***?)

I've been offered up to $85 for a paid posting ~ one that I wouldn't even need to write because they would write the 'article' for me. That's free content, supposedly tailored for my readers, plus $85 in my pocket ~ and I turned it down because I care, damnit. I've also turned down ads for products which are illegal, products I believe to be dangerous, and just plain old shams (the latter of which mostly come into this blog).

I may whore my wares, the wares of other, but I'm honest about that. I'll whore what I like, thank you, and when I do, you'll know it.

But I'm not going to sell my soul, my loyalty, and in the process sell you all out too. My word matters to me. It's one of the few things, I'm told, I get to take with me when I leave this place.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Q & A About Paid Postings

My, my, you all have a lot of questions and comments on this!

Q: Are there adult pay per post programs?
A: If I knew any, I'd not tell. (I hate to sound like a magic 8-Ball, but really now, it's rather clear I detest the things and do not want to promote any.)

Q: What about being paid for reviews? Isn't that the same thing, really?
A: Pay per post is completely different from reviewing products or services; reviews are ethical.

Reviews are when a person uses a product or service and provides and honest accounting of its usefulness, worth, function, or some statement saying if it was pleasing or not.

The product or service may have requested the review (in which case, they ought to have provided a sample, review copy, screening, or other way for the reviewer to try the product), or the reviewer may simply have bought or otherwise used the product or service himself. The piece was written and published as a service to readers who value their opinion about such products and services. (This makes them targeted and part of the publication or blog's mission, and as a result, reviews may be used to further the blogger's authority, reputation and traffic.)

The piece is an honest opinion or set of opinions about the product or service and is published as information for interested consumers; it is not a promotional piece for the author, manufacturer, company or service provider ~ though, if positive, it can be used as such.

Reviews are not paid for, in any sense of the word.

While a blogger or reviewer may make money off an affiliate program, such as Amazon affiliate links for book reviews, this is not to be confused with "being paid." These links exist primarily to give the consumer access to the product (and additional product information) as well as provide a nominal (and potential) 'thank you' to compensate for the reviewer's time. (If you've ever done reviews, you'd never question the amount of time put into them.) This is why affiliate links are more accepted at blogs and personal sites, rather than at The New York Times and other large publications where the reviewers are staff or other paid writers.

Again, and repeat with me, "Reviews are never paid for." Even paid reviewing services which promise you 'the big guy publications' (and no, I won't drop their names either) are smarmy in my book. But I am an opinionated whore.

Q: Can I turn a paid post solicitation into money another way?
A: Yes, and I'll be writing that up in an upcoming newsletter.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Paid Per Posting: A Whore By Any Other Name, Still Smells Fishy

Sorry for the relatively crass post title, guaranteed to irritate sex workers (and women) everywhere ~ and the long post ~ but I really feel strongly about this.

Grab a beverage, light a cig if that's your dealio, and settle in ~ this whore's got stamina. (She's long winded & goes the distance.)


Maybe I'm just too old and remember the days of payola all too well, or maybe it's because I'm not only aware of the cultural swing to consumer mistrust but am part of it, but paid postings make me ill.

I seriously thought paid postings would be a short-lived mistake, and I'd never need to write about it. But lately, not only am I seeing the blight on more and more blogs, but it's so bad that blog directories are now asking if you participate in such activities and others are even tossing such bloggers out of their listings. Oh, if only that would be enough to convince folks that paid postings are a bad idea. But apparently it's not.

Paid posting is the devil. Not just annoying, not just a stupid thing to do, but literally a way to sell your integrity, and the soul of your blog and company if not your personal soul.

I'm not talking about when a writer gets paid to write, even 'on assignment,' or posts which are sponsored in the sense that someone pays a fee to have their ad in a post rather than a sidebar or other ad spot. I'm talking about when someone gets paid to writ about a specific product/service/company period. It's not merely 'like' payola, it is payola.
Payola is defined as, a secret or private payment in return for the promotion of a product or service. The term originates from the record industry; but isn't limited to it.
Media which is paid to present products, services, companies, candidates etc. should be marking these funds as advertising revenues and presenting these products to the public as advertisements. If not, if they publish articles, run videos, air interviews etc. for money, they are taking a bribe.

Don't kid yourself, or let another fool you, into believing that being paid to blog (write, publish, or otherwise present) about a product (company, service, performer, candidate or other entity) is ethical or effective. It's not.

In our current climate of mistrust, a thinking reader is often looking for the hook ~ what's this author's intent, what's the blogger have to gain from posting this, what's the reporter's bias? This means that the average visitor to your blog is looking for a reason not to trust you. Paid postings just prove them right, and you terribly, woefully, wrong.

(If you agree with me, you may stop reading now and go get an ice cream cone ~ unless you're morbidly fascinated by this sort of train-wreck. If you don't agree or don't know what pay per post is, then read on my children ~ you might get that ice cream cone yet.)

What happens when a blogger is giving selling their opinions directly on products ~ without even trying them?!

Think I'm exaggerating? Think again, kids. Look at this from SponsoredReviews.com FAQ for advertisers:
How It Works

There are two ways to participate:

1. You can search for and purchase reviews directly by browsing through our database of active bloggers. Once you purchase a review and provide some details about the review you want done, we notify the bloggers. The blogger would then accept or decline your review request. Once accepted the blogger has 7 days to write the review, post it on their blog, and submit the URL into our system for you to see.

2. You can also post an opportunity so that bloggers can search and find you directly. An opportunity is similar to posting a job opening. Bloggers will search for relevant advertisers in order to find work. Posting an opportunity will increase the number of reviews you can get completed.
And this is from their FAQ for bloggers:
How it Works

There are two ways to participate:

1. You can create a profile for your blog(s) in order to attract advertisers. Advertisers will purchase reviews from you, which you have the option to accept or decline.

2. You can also search for advertisers directly, and bid on jobs. Our unique bidding system allows you to negotiate your rates with advertisers in order to maximize your earnings.

Once you have accepted a review opportunity, you have 3 days to complete your assignment. Upon posting the review on your blog, you must enter the URL of the post into our system.
Not a single mention of product being delivered to a blogger ~ in fact, not a single mention of the products actually being used! Now what the hell is that about?! That's not a review, that's an infomercial (at best), a paid endorsement by someone who has never tried it (at worst) or just a plain old advertisement.

In fact, it seems that actually trying the product is discouraged. Here's a quote from PayPerPost.com's blogger FAQ:
Q: How much time do I have to write my post?

A: Once you have selected Take this Opportunity, you have 6 hours to complete the requirements as listed in the Opportunity and submit the post via PayPerPost. It is best to begin research and work on the post as soon as you have decided to accept the Opportunity.
Are we to believe that within 6 hours one has been sent or purchased the item, used it, and written a review?

A review means that one has tried the product or service and is giving their honest, unvarnished thoughts. Clearly, these are not reviews.

How on earth is paid posting not considered payola by everyone?

As a blogger, you have an ethical responsibility to differentiate advertisements from your own content (i.e. your comments, opinions, recommendations, interviews, articles etc.). Even if you do not consider yourself to be part of The Media, nor wish to be, you have this responsibility. Think of it this way; when you ask your friend what movie you should see this weekend and he tells you, "Even Almighty," you trust him, right? But what if he was paid to say that? And he never told you?

Paid per post is just that.

(And how would you feel about Universal Films for paying your buddy to tell you that?)

I know, I know, there are some sites/programs which make it clear that the blog post is a paid post via buttons, banners and links. This does alleviate the matter of the hidden agenda from the reader ~ however, this leads to a whole other set of problems which prove pay per post is just bad business.

Number one, the fundamental flaw with admitting that you get paid per post is that your entire blog and everything you say is now suspect. It's not just me saying that. Be honest with yourself; if you read in any of my posts that I was paid to write them, wouldn't they naturally be suspect? Wouldn't I naturally be suspect?

You know what kills me? When bloggers fill their headers and their sidebars with buttons which read, "Hire Me! A Post On This Blog Is $15" (or $30 or whatever price they put on their integrity). Authority lost in the name of transparency, that's what this is. That button screams, "Hey! Me, my blog, and I have no integrity! Buy us!" What authority can you possibly have or earn when you announce that you and your blog are for sale?

And they call me a whore. :snort:

While these hideous announcements are at least honest, what does this do for the advertiser? Do you trust or like people who bribe people? Those companies, politicians, entertainers, etc. who use pay for posts are doing just that.

In our current climate of distrust of corporations and marketing in general, people are all-too-ready to point fingers at those who would be so unethical. And it won't be just the blogger who suffers with a poor reputation, but the advertiser as well.

Besides, it's a waste of ad dollars. These blatant bribes are not going to be effective.

Knowing that a blogger is paid for their posts severely limits the blog's appeal. Would a paid review, a blog post be meaningful to you? Likely not. Who is going to bookmark or regularly visit this blog? Would you read a blog or subscribe to an RSS feed in which 70% (or more) of its content was ads? Probably not.

Of the few that do visit, either out of friendship with the blogger or those who just stumbled in for the first time from from a search engine query, are these visitors part of the advertiser's target market? For that matter, how can a blog which is 70% paid postings have a target audience? So even if these were credible reviews and ads at credible blogs how could these ads even be worthwhile to the advertisers?

It's a lose-lose scenario.

Amazingly, quite a number of these bloggers in pay per post programs (and there are a growing number of these), have high rankings, linking authority at Technorati and other signs of 'greatness.'

How do they do it? Well, I'm no member of these programs, but it's pretty clear that they are organized, armed with blogger tools, and know just enough to be dangerous ~ for the short term anyway. For no matter how many people you get (trick into) visiting these blogs, the bottom line is no one is trusting them enough to believe what they say. Translation: No one is going to rush out and buy/consume the products and services which are presented.

One of the tools these programs offer is the "Get Paid To Review My Post" buttons. These are designed to get others hooked. Not just other bloggers and advertisers, but blog readers looking to make a few bucks.

I've heard the intention of the "review me" buttons and links are to provide the check & balance of the system. If a blogger consistently gets poor reviews, then they'll be ranked less or otherwise deemed less worthy to advertisers. This is to ensure the quality. (Quality I can only guess is determined by some rather meaningless criteria, for by now credibility is non-existent.) Aside from the obvious potential of misuse by other jealous bloggers, the friends of bloggers and the advertisers themselves (who can keep a blogger's fees as humble as their attitudes), the whole system is rife with misuse by the program managers themselves.

As noted before, I've been at sites where the owners told columnists to download the Alexa toolbar so that our visits would help increase the site's ranking. So it's not a big leap to imagine that when advertisers stop buying posts these programs will direct members to 'give folks a break' and give nice reviews so that they can gain and retain advertisers. A plea to 'help the program so you can continue to be paid' is a strong motivator for many, and since the average (admittedly not generated with a large sample) I saw for paid post reviews was $7.50 per review, that could add up rather quickly. Those reviewing members are going to respond.

Of course, it's just as likely that the programs will actually direct it's members posting negative or neutral 'reviews' to let up a bit to help the site gain and retain advertisers. Ditto on running about and clicking the links to advertisers to inflate numbers. Since these bloggers are in it for the money, not the authority, not the love of what they blog about, they are going to submit to these requests.

The whole thing stinks like rotten fish sitting in the sunshine. Don't let pay per post folks blow sunshine up your skirt with their talk of revenues and other matters which cloud the issue, which is one of ethics.

Decent bloggers care about their authority. Decent companies care about their image. And paid postings destroy both.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

11 Ways You'll Know You're Getting Somewhere

Aside from watching the number of your site visitors climb higher, these are a few of the ways you can mark your blog's success and your own authority.

(Unnumbered because this isn't necessarily an 'in order' thing.)

* Folks linking to your for your content. Not just social bookmarks, but other bloggers writing about you and/or your posts. (Not all will be positive, but do take advantage of these opportunities and participate in the conversations!)

* Folks asking for link swaps. I'm referring to real people asking you, not spam or form letters, and to real blogs or sites, not directories. (Not to beat a dead horse, but please do evaluate them all.)

* Being nominated for awards. (Winning awards!)

* Being asked questions, for advice, or otherwise mentoring another.

* Companies asking about your ad rates. (Note: As a general rule, I recommend bloggers do not worry about having an advertising program or making a "click here for my advertising rates" to a advertising FAQ or email contact until and unless they've been asked directly by a potential advertiser or two.)

* Authors and companies asking for reviews. I'm speaking of real reviews here, where they send you the product and you use it and honestly review it.

* Quotes of your reviews used in other places to promote the product.

* Inquires or solicitations for paid posts or sponsored posts. (More, much more, on this later.)

* Being published at other sites or in other publications.

* Requests for you to preview products prior to release. (Your name and site printed on book jackets and product packaging!)

* Being interviewed or quoted in other publications or media.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Leaders & Leadership Behavior

Wayne Hurlbert's Blog Business World hosts this week's edition of Carnival of the Capitalists.

Having hosted before, I have a new appreciation for what Hurlbert's work load was like. I know his task was neither simple nor easy, and he's selected some really fine offerings. As usual, I suggest you go there and read, read, Read.

***

My favorite post from this week's carnival is Non - Linear Leadership Thinking vs. Behavior, by Charles H. Green. Hurlbert describes this post as "how it seems the best leaders are sages, able to hold two contradictory ideas in mind at the same time, believe both, and reconcile them." (Which is far more succinct than I could ever hope to be, so I must use his phrasing.)

What's excellent about this post, what's so exciting, is that Green describes what every good salesman knows ~ and I'm speaking of real salesmen in the legendary ways of old, when the profession was deemed noble.

Once upon a time every good salesman knew that if you keep the customer's needs and objections in mind and at the same time know your products well enough you can find the solution to the customer's problems via a sale.

'Tis the same with my philosophy of marketing. You know you, your product or service can't be everything to everybody ~ but you know and believe that you, your product or service can be just the thing your customer is looking for. Help him to see how, solve his problems ~ and make a sale too. It's holistic, a symbiotic win for all. This is what Green is talking about in his discussion of leadership.

Since Green's left the salesmen and marketers out of it, perhaps many more will listen. *wink*

***

Which brings us back to Hurlbert (and other fine hosts of CoTC): They create lists of the best postings, points and pontifications for the rest of us to read. Hopefully, they are read and respected in return. Another win-win.

Next week's Carnival of the Capitalists will be hosted by Management Professor Notes II ~ if you want to enter, send the following information to cotcmail~at~gmail~dot~com:

Blog Name
Blog URL
Entry/Post Title
Entry/Post URL
Description of Post
Author Name

Also, consider hosting the carnival if you have a relevant blog.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nothing Up My Sleeve

In Marketing gimmicks: Bending spoons and magic, Wayne Hurlbert writes:
Good marketers understand their products and services and their potential customers and clients. Just as the magician applies the laws of science to the various tricks, the savvy marketing person considers the needs and desires of the marketplace. Sometimes, that market requires the talents of the illusionist. Instead of the standard marketing techniques, a few gimmicks can be employed successfully.
At first I bristled. Yes, good marketers understand their product and their target market. But gimmicks? This is exactly the sort of negative stuff that makes the world mistrust and hate marketers. Slight of hand is not something I want associated with my work.

His specific suggestions are less upsetting though. And he does provide a warning:
Just as some people can see things up the magician's sleeve, so too can they see through a badly run marketing campaign. Care must be taken to perfect the art of spoon bending, and so too with gimmick marketing.
As Wayne says, "A successful gimmick marketing campaign can go viral in an instant, however. Be certain to be prepared for the global sales that result." Ditto that when it goes terribly, horribly, hideously wrong.

It is from those creative suggestions and his warnings that I do trust that what Wayne is really in favor of is a more creative approach to getting the attention of potential consumers, clients and fans. I do just wish he would avoid comparing marketing with the less honest (or cheesy) aspects of magic.

I really, perhaps naively, believe 'the wow factor' should come from the product/service itself and that the marketer's job is to find ways for those who would benefit from the product/service ~ even say "Wow!" about it ~ to know about it. That's the real marketing magic.

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Silence Can Be Golden

As one who recommends regular blogging to their clients who use blogs, I feel I ought to make a comment regarding my own irregular blogging. It's not really a case of "do as I say, not as I do" *wink* I do have my (legitimate) reasons for pauses and silences here. And this isn't just a simple post in which I rationalize my silences to you (or even myself). I think this is actually something you should know about. (No, I'm not going to brag or whore; but I am going to share a philosophy I hope you'll consider.)

No matter how much I'd like to be here, babblin' on and on, my first priority is my own business (i.e. my own projects and my clients), and you, my very dear blog readers, are secondary. (No offense, but The Whore has a job to do and bills to pay, and so our little conversations are a luxury for me. I do hope you understand.)

Like many marketers, much of the work I do is behind the scenes. The science of targeting and the crafting of campaigns takes time and is rather unseen work, for the most part. I know some marketers (or those who like to make judgements) will say that if I was really doing my job, they'd know it. They say that if I was any good, my name would be appearing 'everywhere.'

But I disagree. Completely, utterly, disagree.

Unlike some marketers or consultants, I not only do not think the number of times my name appears is a sign of my doing my job but in fact find it a statement to the contrary.

My job is to market my products or my clients/clients' projects, not myself. Every time I see a press release with the name of the agency on it, even as a tiny last line, I am amazed at the audacity. Unless your agency is actually the one taking the calls for you (and then I wonder why on earth you'd have some one other than yourself talk to the media or consumers ~ how can anyone possibly know more about you, your company and products more than you?!), why is their name even on any release, advertisement or other information?

Yes, these third parties should be arranging conversations between you and your target market, and that may be started in the media via a release etc., but shouldn't they be more like a friend setting you up on a blind date? The agency or other professional should introduce you to the contact (via whatever means you've discussed) and then get out of the way, leaving you to talk. If my sister or friend says she has this great guy for me to meet and then actively participates in our first date ~ monopolizing the conversation, I'd be more than suspicious... She must want this guy for herself. Ditto on the marketing professional who must surely have an agenda of their own.

Worse than a third wheel, these types of agenda driven folks are more like a steering wheel. They try to (and often do) take control of where everything is going. And the destination is not about you, but rather about them. They want their name or business to prosper & shine; not yours. That's not what you are paying for, is it? Like ad companies who are more interested in winning a Cleo than you selling your inventory, consultants, agencies and marketers who stand in the middle of the conversation are more interested in their name and agenda than yours. So every time I see that third party mentioned, I cringe.

I figure my job is to sell what I've been hired to sell, and that rarely is me. So why should my name appear 'everywhere' when it's not about me?

In the case of third parties, silence may in fact be golden.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peek-A-Boo Transparency

When it comes to visibility on the Internet, there's a delicate balance to maintain.

Transparency is desirable, but as any woman can tell you, you certainly have to protect yourself.

Des Walsh writes discusses anonymity from a practical sense, but so does Jennifer Woodard Maderazo at PBS.

The dilemma is between being known and credible, and being 'found' and frightened.

Obviously I'm a huge advocate of pen names. I have a history which makes them second nature and deal in a subject matter which makes one mandatory. So I began my life here on the Internet with a working name ~ a professional name I work under. (Gracie Passette, not just The Whore; I find the latter fun.) And I advocate pen names for anyone, in any profession. I don't believe that pen names make you less credible.

(I often think it would be great if you could literally make a name for yourself in your 9-5 cubicle, and say work as "John Peterson" rather than use your birth name. It makes it so easy to un-plug at the end of your work day when you stop being "John" and start being David aka The Real You.)

But if this doesn't sit right with you, or if you've already begun your career with your real name, for heaven's sake be careful about it. Consider what you share, how you share it, and with whom you share it. Tell the truth, but cloak what you can.

It's like dressing to tease, but still allowing for some modesty.

(In truth, many bloggers etc. use their real names not for their current level of credibility, but for the vanity of it).

You aren't faking anything, just being discrete for safety reasons. And anyone who thinks you have something to hide, some hideous skeleton in your closet or facet of your life you are trying to hide, is well... Partly right. Maybe not about the skeleton. But you are trying to hide some part of yourself so that you can be safe and live your life. (As can your family and friends.)

Not using your real or birth name isn't any different than electing not to put up photos of yourself. But then again by the same token, don't use a name which belongs to someone else or describe yourself (character, integrity, knowledge etc.) other than what you are. That's like using a photo of a model; that's misrepresentation, lying.

Sure, when you become famous you won't be easily getting that table at (insert whatever hot spot for dining you'd like), but then you won't have someone following you to your home either. Or at least you've made it more difficult for them to do so.

Being accessible is a huge part of credibility; but that doesn't mean you must allow anyone, everyone, into your home.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How Blogs (Don't) Work; Or, The Great Blog Shake-Out

I do agree that shake-out is here and it's only going to continue. Not due to any blogging bubble being burst, but for the very reason blogging is popular: people want connection points (not drivel).

There are many blogs, with more being started every day. The reason that many fail is that many blogs do not offer conversations. A blog ~ a real blog or at least the kind of blogs I am referring to when I write here ~ is a place to publish ideas and to discuss those ideas.

It's the power of people to connect and discuss. Unlike passive or cold forms of communication, blogging is participatory. Receivers of communication are not just receivers but have the ability to become instant senders of messages of their own. I don't think this desire to connect is going to diminish anytime ~ the means by which we do it may, but the desire remains.

The shake-out I refer to is the process by which blogs survive. With so many choices, which blogs will people continue to read and (this is the really important part) carry out discussions in?

Here are some blogging 'styles' which do not foster conversations:

A) A business blog which just states press release info in a more casual tone without official formatting is not a blog ~ it's a listing of pitches from most recent to last. Ditto with authors, film makers etc. who announce their latest releases.

B) Having a blog which points to the latest news isn't necessarily a conversation. Your selection of news on a topic may be a service, for which you may have many readers, but it's not a conversation. In order to have a conversation you need to put more than the idea out there as a link or a sentence or two. You need to discuss it, not just present it. (Or consider yourself offering a service, not a conversation, and look at your stats and marketing accordingly.)

C) Having a blog which consists of pointing out all the ad campaigns which do not work or otherwise mocking others may be entertaining, but it's not a conversation.

D) Have a blog which is all photos and no talk is not a conversation. If it's porn, it's a masturbation session; if art, it's a gallery exhibition; but neither is a conversation.

In the adult industry this last one is the most prevalent problem. There are countless boring blogs which offer nothing that a pay site tour gallery doesn't. These folks just copy & post an image, stick in a link to their own site or an affiliate link, and call it a blog. "Look at naked Betty Sue" is rarely a discussion.

In fact, sex for all its popularity is one of those least likely to get a conversation; I know this from years with Sex-Kitten. It's difficult to get people, even anonymous ones, to talk about something so private. It's much easier to get someone to look at photos or a movie than it is to get a conversation going. Columns, reviews and op-ed pieces on sex tend to be 'just read' rather than discussed. Your traffic (as in visitors and readers) may be huge, but your conversations? Not-so-much.

This is why so many erotica authors I know resort/return to blogging about the business of being an author. When they blog about problems with publishing, publishers and other industry information they are far more likely to get others engaged in the conversation. But in doing so, they lose the interest of readers of erotica, who really aren't interested in this uglier (or more boring) side of books; erotica readers read erotica for arousal and entertainment, not for author bitch sessions. When authors (and others) do this, they've switched target audiences and no longer reach readers (potential buyers).

I know that this higher volume of comments makes you feel as if you're meeting your goal, but you're not. Sometimes you just have to satisfy yourself with your stats (traffic and page views) rather than your comments. (And don't think I'm backtracking on my statement about blogs being conversations ~ I'm not! But we'll get to that later; I don't want to get too far off-track now.)

Those who blog in these styles are likely the ones whining that the blog bubble has burst ~ or that blogging never was big anyway. Or, they soon will be. Because blogs like these will suffer in the shake-out.

At best what these bloggers are really doing is offering a conversation elsewhere ~ like passing a note in school. And like anything else in business, consumers like to cut-out the middle-man. They'll just go directly to the source instead.

As people pick and choose from the ala cart experience which is the blogosphere, there will be shake-out. But that's just the stuff of a competitive market. Even if it's for free, people select what's the best and toss the rest aside.

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