Monday, October 20, 2008

When Content Isn't King

Last week on Cult of Gracie, Callie & I were joined by Pearly Writes and Rebecca Deos for a long conversation about SEO and content.

For the most part, we all agree: content is the best organic SEO. You'll have to listen to the show for where we split hairs regarding SEO and social network sites, etc., but worthy of noting here today was our discussion regarding use of content.

Callie and I began the conversation by stating that before you blog (or your business, really) you have to know your mission. How else are you going to measure your success? Part of this business of your mission relates to content, how to use it, and the matter of "should you give it away for free?"

While we all agreed there are times to withhold content for money, deciding 'when' is the tricky part. Callie, who does consulting & writes conceptual articles & "how to" posts, discussed how some of her most thoughtful "free stuff" was often either not understood & therefore misapplied, or read too quickly (a kind way of saying that folks didn't really get it) and the information was not used correctly. She's decided that she won't be giving such things away, but rather saving most of her "goodies" for clients ~ not just to be paid, but to ensure that the advice or concept is applied as intended. Rebecca, an escort, uses her blog to write about things that interest her purely as a way for prospective clients to know more about her. And certainly an author has to decide what stories/columns should be sold versus what can be given away for free, as 'exposure.'

In any case, this "to be paid or not to be paid" is a rather subjective decision ~ one which can only effectively be decided once you know your goals/mission.

But this lead to a conversation about the worth of writing ~ again, partially based upon all the recent loss of so many "sex columnists". (It's a conversation I appreciate being kept alive by grande folks such as Amber, Dacia, & Callie.)

My thoughts wandered to the matter of value ~ value beyond paid or not, or how much per word, etc., but the matter of the value of adult writing on human sexuality.

We know that sex is deemed a less legitimate conversation than say politics, finance, or technology. Everyone knows I find that both a stupid ideology (everybody literally has a reason to both know about & explore sexuality) and a dumb argument in light of the fact that sex does in fact sell ~ and I'm talking actually selling sex, be it porn, toys, or sex worker services ~ to the tune of millions, billions of dollars annually. But the value of sex writing, fiction and non-fiction, cannot be discussed only in terms of its relation to non sexual writing ~ if only for the fact that we're missing the definition of the value of writing in general. Time for some conceptual algebra.

What value does writing have? And perhaps, more pointedly, just what is of value on the Internet?

Lately I'm more and more struck by the freakish facts which point to the fact that technology & its tools (the code, widgets, etc. known as Web 2.0) garner more money, attention and credit than content.

Name a site, strip it of its content and what do you have? Just a bunch of code. Yet people are buying code and concepts of code & tools rather than putting money into what it is that people really come to, return to, and love sites for: content.

All websites are publications/productions, so this monetary focus on the tools of the publication/production is akin to gushing over the pencil, the typewriter, the lush yet blank pages of a magazine. I'm focusing on writing here (and perhaps it's warranted because words are still the way things are found on the Internet), but this applies to images too. For example, Flickr without photos and images is nothing but a a potentially cool tool that's not being used; it only becomes popular when the tool is used to deliver content.

But the money seems to be going to the folks who create the tools, while content creators, adult or otherwise, are slighted. It's too lopsided.

So perhaps the question we should all be asking isn't, "Should I give it away for free?" or even "When should I give it away for free?" but rather "When are the big sites with budgets going to realize how damn important content is?"

For the flip-side of this argument, please read Rebecca's thoughts from after the radio show.

And then, please do tell us all what you think about the use of content and the value of writing.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Adults Embracing & Embedding Facebook In Wordpress Blogs

The fabulous & much adored by The Marketing Whore Callie Simms has posted The Best Facebook & Wordpress Plugins for Adult Bloggers; a useful list if you are, indeed, stuck with Wordpress.

Why do I say "stuck" with Wordpress? Well, as seen in Callie's article, nearly everything with WP requires a freakin' plugin.

Yeah, I've defended Blogger & other platforms before against the Wordpress fans who believe the WP stands for "worship" ~ so why bother to do it again? Because I use WP at one of my mainstream gigs and I hate, hate, Hate it.

When it comes to hosting, WP is a hog. It requires SQL & PHP be installed on the server and as it uses a live database, is far more intense, requiring far more effort on the part of the server. This also means more stuff to go wrong. And then there's those plugin requirements for every little thing... :sigh:

So, when Callie says, "More and more adult bloggers & business owners are moving to Wordpress for their blogging platform because of simplicity it provides as a content management system," I have two questions:

1) Says who? Who says more and more adult bloggers & business owners are moving to Wordpress?

B) Who says it is a simpler platform &/or content management system?

If you are using WP, and want to do the Facebook thing, Callie's article is, as I said, useful. But if you aren't using WP you can simply use RSS to create/take dynamic content from virtually any social networking site (or use the tools/widgets most provide), as well as use RSS to place your content from elsewhere into your social network profile/pages; WP has no corner on that market.

Of course, all the general rules regarding being a polite adult content person within mainstream social networks still apply. And I'm still not a fan of the Facebook.

But you can hear more about that when Callie & I face-off on Facebook and other things this Wednesday on Cult of Gracie Radio.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

About Those New Seinfeld & Gates Ads

My boyfriend, CR/LF (NWS), and I are having a running feud about the new Microsoft commercials. He, like many techies, insists they are stupid; I adore them. Every geek has her weird weaknesses & right now you could say that the Microsoft ads are among mine.

Our debate often swirls around the Mac vs. PC commercials. In those commercials, PC is likable ~ but Mac reigns as the uber cool kid. The Mac ads make me feel like I should be pitied like the campaign's PC character. Sure, that Mac guy's nice. We'll be lab partners in science class or maybe share a table at lunch; but I'll never be invited to parties at his house. CR/LF agrees with me on this, but he still doesn't see what I favor in the new Microsoft commercials.

The new commercials with Jerry Seinfeld & Bill Gates amuse me ~ and it's not because some people think the ads are kinky either. I think they are hysterical. I love seeing them in the cheap shoe store ~ and the family in the window is awe-struck not by their celeb status, but by the shoes! (That just kills me!)



It's not just that they are funny ~ it's the way they are funny.

In the Mac ads, Mac is like those bratty rich kids in high school & the posse of posers who did whatever they did to be cool. Then as now I know that no matter how cool I am, no matter how stellar my works are, I'll never be seen by them as their equal in cool. Then it was because my platform's were the knock-off designer shoes; today it's because my platform isn't the designer Mac. And I've never been one to pay more to appear cool or to please others.

As a PC user (on Linux, yet) I might want a Mac... But even if I could afford a Mac, I don't think I could justify the excess price tag to my practical-nerd-self. Who does that sound like? Gates, Seinfeld & that family of window shoppers! We're all bonding! (Branding, that is.)

Unlike the Mac ads, Microsoft celebrates the real geeks, weirdness and all.

Does this ad campaign overcome every Microsoft issue? No. But Microsoft has likability issues. Most people's awareness of Microsoft as 'evil' or 'less than cool' is effectively addressed by these commercials. I'm no longer the uncool person who has a PC by default ~ I have one because I want one. I've decided with my purshase(s). And I am as happy with my PC-self as I am with all my other choices which may seem "less than" to those hipsters.

As a more 'average' user/buyer of computers and software am more likely to be Microsoft's target audience (which means CR/LF's opinion should be of little consequence to Microsoft's campaign) and me and my posse of weird brainiacs am moving closer to the brand because of them.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I Hope Not

Wired's Paul Adams asks, Is Captcha's Moment Passing?
Recently, though, the various most popular Captcha implementations have been cracked. Bots with character-recognition ability have gotten pretty reliably good at figuring out what the distorted text says. That means they can sign up for Gmail, Yahoo, and Windows Live accounts automatically, and use those accounts for their own malicious purposes -- typically to send spam.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Adult Marketer, Can You Use Blog Talk Radio?

I was recently interviewed on XBN (NWS), a radio program run by SWOP East, which is powered by Blog Talk Radio. Not only was it fun, prompting me to schedule another interview (perhaps even host a show), but the experience resurrected talk of Sex-Kitten.Net radio.

For a few years we've been discussing starting a radio show, but along with the investment costs (equipment, time and additional marketing efforts), we were skeptical of the feasibility of such a project. While we know that discussion of sexuality is both needed and desired, we worried if the uphill battle of selling the program would result in a watered-down, wet-blanket version of the show & programming we envisioned. The other option, of course, was to run our own Internet radio station ~ which led back to the additional costs of equipment and bandwidth on top of all the other issues. The bottom line was if we had less tech and marketing efforts, it would be worth the old college try; but without that support, it was a bit too much to bite-off. So the the project was shelved, occasionally resurrected when something, like the XBN interview, reignited the spark of passion.

Back in the early days of discussion, our research included the newborn baby BlogTalkRadio.com. And we've investigated, as they've popped up, other options. But none seemed as simple as easy, with the most options, as Blog Talk Radio. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and a phone. And yes, kids, Blog Talk Radio is free.

It's free for listeners, and even free for callers if they use VoIP.

The past few years have shown not only Blog Talk Radio's stability in the reliable sense, but a real growth in terms of listener audience and increased options.

Along with the opportunity to increase your connection with readers via audio (listening to live shows, downloading podcasts, and offering additional real-time conversations with your blog &/or website readers), you have the opportunity to recruit new fans via regular users of BlogTalkRadio.

BlogTalkRadio isn't just a technology platform, allowing you to create shows and store them; it's a social network where members can find and hook-up with & befriend other members ~ which includes show hosts as well as other listeners. They also offer a number of widgets, which allows fans to literally help you broadcast your shows by posting your show on their blogs and in their profiles at other social networking sites.

In January of this year, Blog Talk Radio also started a RevShare Program. When you opt in, show hosts can receive 35% of ad sales/sponsors for their shows ~ and if you find a show sponsor who is not currently using Blog Talk Radio, you'll get a 50% share of the ads they place on your shows. (All paid show sponsorship & advertising must be run-through Blog Talk Radio.)

This also means that if you have an adult product, your ad money is welcome at Blog Talk Radio. Starting at $100, you can buy ad space at targeted radio shows where the listening audience is your market audience, willing and ready to buy. You can see more information and find the full rate info here.

There have been a lot of changes at BlogTalkRadio, and with renewed interest I began to investigate if now was the time...

I found the FAQs (both the public list and the additional FA available for registered users) a bit confusing, and being one of those polite marketers, I wanted to see just how welcome adult content would be. So I got in touch with John Sweet, Director of Customer Relations for BlogTalkRadio.com.

Are we adult folks welcome at Blog Talk Radio?

Yes. And you'll see when you fill out the information for hosting a show that there are several options ~ there's both a "Mature" and an "Adults Only".

What are the standards?

It's self-regulating; but basically "Mature" would be an "R" or "NC-17" and "Adults Only" would be for more risque talk ~ but again, we're still not talking X-rated or pornographic talk. The rule of thumb here is the entertainment aspect: discussion about sex is OK, but reading an erotic story is not. In other words, you can move the listeners to actions such as "buy this book", "attend this conference", or "show up at the rally"; but if you're trying to move them into ah, well, lifting their hand for some other self-entertainment purpose, then that's a no-no.

John was clear to also tell me what would happen if someone were to complain or contact BlogTalkRadio regarding a show's content. You won't get the boot instantly. He'll review the show and if there's a concern, he'll contact the show's host to discuss what can be done to make corrections to avoid potential problems in the future. So you have some breathing room; self-regulation is not a trick question, setting you up to fail.

One thing you must know about adult shows is that they will not be visible to the average visitor to BlogTalkRadio.com. This does not mean your show is buried. Registered users may opt to see & search for listings in the mature & adult only shows simply by correctly setting permissions in their profile. Just toggle "Disabled" in the safe search setting, located in the "My Options" section of your "Settings" page.



And, registered user or not, any links directly to your show's page will be seen and heard. So, like any good marketer would do, when you link to your show from your website &/or blog (or fans do), folks will properly arrive there; no fancy settings or permissions needed.

Other info you may want clarified:

Show Length:

Show length is listed as up to 60 minutes, but it is now up to 120 minutes ~ plus you can have up to one additional hour in which the show is being taped for the archives, but is not streaming live. So if your guest has created quite a crowd of questioners, you, the guest and callers may still continue the show. New listeners arriving at the page will not hear it, but anyone playing back the archived show will hear it all, up to 180 minutes.

Remember, you need not have a show or shows that long; you may select show length to be as little as 15 minutes. But once the stated length of the show ends, you have up to 60 additional minutes of recording time. Which brings up the matter of what happens post show, if/when you and your guest are doing wrap-up chatter. It is being recorded and you should let the guest know that it is still being taped &/or edit this out of the recording so it is not included in the show's archive.

Newbie Restrictions

When you are a new host of a show on Blog Talk Radio, you are limited to three shows per month, and you may not have a show during prime time hours (without special permission ~ more on that in a bit).

It doesn't sound like a lot to an eager new radio personality, but John assures me it's not such a problem. As your show increases in popularity (number of live listeners and number of downloaded archived shows), a magical algorithm calculates your worthiness of more shows. In other words, by the time you've got a few under your belt, you'll be ready for more. (And if not, well, then increase your marketing efforts.)

Radio, is a lot like blogging. It takes time to build your blog, your audience and pacing is a huge part of it. (How many times have we seen a new blogger post like crazy, with dozens of posts a day or a week, only to find they've abandoned the blog a few weeks later... Having a low start limit prevents enthusiastic burnout rates.)

Prime Time Slots

Prime time slots, as defined by Blog Talk Radio, are 7:00 PM EST to 12:00 AM EST, Monday through Friday.

The issue of limiting prime time show spots is obviously based on the desirability of such time slots. As these are the most popular hours for listening, BlogTalk Radio naturally wants to play fair with them, and overall limits them to one prime time slot per week. Newbies have to pay their dues, build an audience, to earn that time. Again, John says that it's not too difficult to get in. And in fact, we adult folks may have an inside track...

It only makes sense that adult programming would be more popular in the evening, as adults can't listen to such shows at work or while the kiddies are awake and about. So if you have an "Adults Only" or "Mature" show, contact John (johnsweet+at+blogtalkradio.com) and ask him to help give you the clearance to schedule during prime time.

Fine Print

Registering at BlogTalkRadio.com requires a user agreement. This user agreement indicates that you do not own the copyright to your show.

This means that you may not sell rights to your show, but Blog Talk Radio may.

It's a scary thing for a content creator to contemplate... I asked John about that, and it's pretty simple. They have the right to sell your shows or excerpts of your shows. You don't get paid, but you should get your name out there.

So, for a hypothetical example, if NPR wants seven minutes of an interview on your show, they need to negotiate that with Blog Talk Radio. You don't get a cut; but you will be mentioned. John agrees that not mentioning the specific show and host would be a disservice to both the host/creator and the listener. (Plus, John said Blog Talk Radio would want to talk that up themselves as well.) But if you want to retain rights and control of your radio show or podcast, then this isn't an option for you.

Other Blot Talk Radio Options

As I mentioned, Blog Talk Radio has grown quite a bit in the past few years. They are continually increasing options and features. One of the most intriguing to me was BlogTalkRadio stations.

Station are a means by which you can broadcast multiple shows & further brand yourself. Prior to stations, if you wanted multiple shows, you had to create multiple user ids. While that allows you the option of more than one show, it doesn't allow for them all to be under the same umbrella. The rates for stations are a tidy sum, starting at $5,000 a month. I'm not one of those marketers who says you can't put a price on branding (Because if you can't, well, what's the point? It's a business after all.), but I wouldn't readily dismiss such a fee.

Along with tech assistance, show producers (help with calls etc.), you have to consider the practical matter of Internet hosting. There's both the software to run the shows, streaming of live shows (including chat & callers), and the storing of archived shows. That's a lot of data, a lot of bandwidth. Also, to off-set the cost of a station, you are able to keep 100% of ad & sponsorship payments you gather. And, as a station owner, you do own the copyright to your shows.

John mentioned a few other new features that Blog Talk Radio will be launching soon ~ but I've agreed to be mum until he gives me permission to mention them. So keep an eye out here ~ or I'll poke your eye out there. :p

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Let's Make News With A Not New Affiliate Internet Widget

We've heard before that Social networkers turn into social sellers ~ at least that's the dream; that word of mouth, from friend to friend, one trusted person to another, will promote your product or service for you. But this story is specifically about a new Facebook application:
BSocial Networks Inc. has launched Market Lodge, a system designed for Facebook that enables the social network's users to create miniature e-commerce stores on their Facebook pages. Market Lodge allows Facebook users to select from 1,100 products from 50 retailers items to sell in their own shops.

Facebook users get a 10% commission for every product they sell (deposited in personal PayPal accounts), bSocial Networks gets a 35% to 50% commission, and retailers get an outlet to sell products to the 50 million consumers on Facebook without having to advertise, says Sue Spielman, bSocial Networks co-founder.
Sounds nifty, but really it's just another affiliate widget. Nothing against widgets; making it ultra easy for folks to promote means there's more likelihood they'll actually insert the affiliate code, especially if the interface is easy to use and automatically updates. But fundamentally, this isn't anything new. Right now any user at Facebook or other social network site can insert affiliate links as they wish.

And you'll note that unless you are the manufacturer or otherwise a direct seller of the product you'll not be able to afford commissions of up to 60%.
BSocial Networks plans to expand its initial offering of 1,100 products to thousands of products. Current retailers include Aurora Nova Skin Care, Holistic Pet, Inner Waves Organics, Oona Sara Designs and White Swan. The company also plans to expand its Market Lodge offering, initially created using the Facebook application program interface, to other social networks.
At least half of these products can be found at Amazon; which as most of you know, welcomes affiliates with adult business. The Amazon affiliate program not only offers many widgets, has a great history of making payments to affiliates, but with the wide range of products you often find additional monies earned with sales in categories you've never imagined.
"This is a consumer-to-consumer business platform that lets anyone in the social network create a personalized marketplace that reflects their hobbies and interests," Spielman says.
Not to become The Amazon Marketing Whore, but Amazon allows this with their affiliate stores, which can be designed to match your own brand &/or personal style.
"And when social networkers share their Market Lodge, they share with all of their friends in a setting of social trust, a social bond."
Or social annoyance; as the case may be.

While no one really minds if a friend or family member makes 50 cents off your purchase of naughty lingerie (especially if they never know what it is you bought), affiliate marketing in social networks can be about as much fun as that forced Avon purchase you make from the neighbor lady once a week ~ or the wrapping paper, oranges & scouting cookies you feel forced to buy at work.

Trusted or not, the push of 'buy this' all the time can get really tiresome. Even if it's not done by a marketing professional.

While the new application doesn't appear to be adult-friendly, you can find out more about bSocial's Market Lodge here.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Scheduling Drafts In Blogger

A few weeks ago, Sara Winters (who dared to call me disappearing!) mentioned the ability to schedule posts using Blogger:
4. For the lazy blogger in all of us: Draft.blogger.com. Why am I highlighting this (since I'm posting on blogger and, presumably, so are most of the people who would respond to this)? 1. Because Google doesn't feel it necessary to tell people about things they're changing/working on in relation to the site and 2. when signed in through this version of the site, it allows for bloggers to schedule posts. What does that mean? If you set a post to appear at a future time/date, instead of automatically posting it when you hit publish, the software will save the post until the time you've set. So, if you're like me (someone who doesn't post for a month and then suddenly gets ideas for 6 blog entries in one day), or if you go on vacation, you can make it appear as if your blog is getting updated regularly. This might come in handy for certain Blushing Ladies or a disappearing Whore of the Marketing variety. ;-) That is, if it'll work on their respective sites.

The tricky business is, and I've noted it both at blogs hosted at Blogger as well as this blogs hosted 'elsewhere' (like this one), that once the posts are posted they do not have their own individual URL. Any links created which would generally be to the individual post are credited only to the blog's main URL. This means is makes it difficult for another blogger to link directly to the post.

I'm hoping that the reasons we've not officially heard of Draft.blogger.com is that this is in Beta ~ and thus there'd be hope that this particular peccadillo will soon be corrected.

Because, as noted, other blogging platforms offer post scheduling and it is useful.

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Arguing A Bit

Taking issue with Inc.com's Your Websites: Age-Old Problems; New Age Solutions...

I'll just simply say that numbers 1 & 3 are those good old-fashioned (in web terms) 'sticky' tactics; and unless they are related to your product or service you've got little reason to employ them rather than written content which addresses questions & interests which move them to purchasing. I'd bet that the increase in sales the company noted in the first had more to do with information given (via the avatar or other site info) rather than a chatty-Cathy device. In the latter, I wonder if the widget actually detracted from sales.

And number 2 is cost prohibitive for most; although those with small product lists can do this manually (both in terms of creating links and awareness of what customers buy or are likely to buy).

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Things I Was Reminded Of, Or Learned, When Setting Up A New Blog At Blogger/Blogspot

Setting up the High-Five Fridays blog at Blogger/Blogspot (remember to participate on Friday, will ya?), I thought I should share a few thoughts...

* Feed Settings We had a previous discussion on the problem with splogs and scrapers and I was going to try a trick at this blog, but honestly, I'm of the opinion that just using the appropriate setting removes much of this problem.

In Blogger 'settings', under 'site feed' I use the 'Short' setting. 'Short' only syndicates the first paragraph, or approximately 255 characters, whichever is shorter; and therefore only gives away part of your content. While in theory any 'good' scrapper may follow the feed and cut & paste your whole article, it will remove a pretty hefty percentage of such use as most scrapers are too lazy to that. (If they weren't lazy, they wouldn't be scrapers.)

* Blogger now asks you if your blog has adult content. This is new and I admire blogger for doing it rather than forbidding such content. So be the ethical, responsible, adult bloggers I know you are, and go into your Blogger blog settings and admit the truth.

* While setting up the new blog, I naturally wanted to 'claim' the blog at Technorati. There I discovered a new way to 'claim' ~ via OpenId. It has some bumps ~ for example, you'll want to proceed from Technorati to your blog via a new browser tab or window as it won't return you to Technorati. (And you want to be logged into your blog first, for the best results.) But the option is nice and prompted me to look for more regarding OpenId and Blogger.

While some are not heralding that Blogger now works with OpenId, it really is only in the capacity of making it easier for non-Blogger folks to post comments on Blogger blogs. That, and the magical marriage with Technorati for claims. I say 'magical' because despite being able to awkwardly perform my claim, I was unable to find in any other way shape or form mention of OpenId from the Blogger dashboard & it's settings. And believe me, I looked.

Ionut Alex Chitu offers tips for how to use a Blogger blog as an OpenID identity and says/shows that you need to check "Enable OpenID for blogs" in your Blogger profile:



It's a good thing Chitu (parenthetically) adds:
(the feature is still experimental, so it's not added in the public release yet)
Otherwise I would have gone mad trying to find such a thing. It doesn't exist, no matter how crisp, clean and pretty the instructions were.

If you use any of the following services listed here (and you'll see that Blogger is not), you already have your own OpenID. Otherwise, along with that list of services you'll find a list of places/ways to get an OpenId.

Related:

In discussing StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking widgets I opted to use a third party service rather than monkey with more code ~ not just because the images & links were piddling-about, but because I couldn't get the proper code to work properly with this blog (being hosted off Blogger means there is a code difference).

My price for laziness is that I'm routing users/readers to an additional site/stop and possibly loosing them along the way. Is it a large price to pay? I'm not certain; most users of Stumbleupon etc. use the toolbars and widgets offered by their favorite social bookmarking site anyway. But as it can result in annoying or losing a reader, I don't recommend being lazy ~ unless, like I, you just can't make it work on your own. So I do recommend piddling-about.

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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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Of Splogs and Scrapers

The definitions of 'splog' and 'scraper' are not really important here ~ we all know them when we see them. Here ShoeMoney writes of scrapers:
How annoying is it when you make a post and 5 other posts rank above yours in the search engines all that have your content wrapped around huge Adsense units. When you goto the site not only is it copied word for word but there is zero attribution to the source.
And can't we all relate to that one?

I quite often find these blogs have little Technorati Authority due to few links in, but these blogs do work some SEO trickery and get themselves high in search placement.

As a writer, I'm quite aware of copyright and normally take the blogger to task (and if I can't find contact info, I go straight to the blog/site host). But policing your content takes time and at the end of a Monday I am already wishing for the extra eighth day of the week. So, as ShoeMoney asks, what can you do?

Well, ShoeMoney answers his own question ~ and more:
I came up with this idea a while back to put a link back to my site in my blog feed. This works because if search engines think a blog is worthy enough to outrank yours then it should pass you juice as the authority of the article. If the site doesnt rank (lets face it 100% of the traffic to these scrapers is search engine generated) then its a wash because the search engine has already identified and the site never had any link juice (page rank) to pass in the first place.

I talked to Joost De Valk about the idea and he has made a plugin for it.

The 'and more' comes in as ShoeMoney asks for thoughts on this solution in terms of affecting your site's rank in bad way and gets a response:

UPDATE:

Matt Cutts - Googles lead spam engineer has responded in the comments:

Comment by Matt Cutts
2008-01-10 14:41:09

Don’t cloak the link or make the anchortext spammy, but otherwise: sure. See the interview I did with Stephan here: http://www.stephanspencer.com/search-engines/matt-cutts-interview where I said that syndicating articles with a link to the original article was smart:

As a writer, I'm not saying this should replace the policing & protecting of your copyrighted works; but it is a little bit of insurance.

The plugin or tool Joost De Valk created works for WordPress, so those using other blogging software will need to play if they want to go this route. And, as also discussed having the info in the feed footer may make it easy for the cut & pasting scraper to ignore it.

I'm no techie, but I have an idea and I'm going to see if I can play with the code here to see if it works. (Keep your fingers crossed ~ I'll be needing all of mine. *wink*)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Scratch My Back?

ScratchBack is an online "tipping" system, which can be seen (as well as used Heh Heh!) in my sidebar, and it promises a more fun, conversational way to accept donations than Amazon or PayPal standard donation systems as it allows those who tip to get a link to their own site as they pass on public praise.

It's a neat idea not just for the link, should you have a blog (if you don't, I guess you could just put a link into the very site you're donating to?); but it also allows public praise with a donation. Very few people make a donation and then post a comment saying, "I just made a donation because I love you!" so this is a neat idea. Plus, it allows such praise to act as testimonials and be very visible on the site.

And yes, you have the right to reject/refuse comments which are not so nice (see the FAQ).

The program links do not increase page rank, Technorati authority, or otherwise upset or offend Google with paid linkage as all links use the "nofollow" command:
Do My Links Pass Page Rank?

They do not. Every single link, including the link back to Scratchback, in the TopSpot widget has a "nofollow" hard encoded in them. The code is delivered in Javascript format as well. That means that Google and other search engine spiders "won't follow" the link. It doesn't mean your link isn't clickable, it is.

You cannot remove that code, nor should you attempt to as per the user agreement every publisher and advertiser agree to upon registration. Google has made it perfectly clear that "selling page rank" is not something they believe in. We don't believe in it either. This system is built for fun. There are plenty of other solutions out there you can use if you want to "pass Google juice", just not this one. Did you hear that Google? :)
I'm not certain ScratchBack is very adult friendly, and their directory offerings seem to be quite limited too; but the Marketing Whore is willing to give it a try. (If she can't pass, likely most of you won't either; and should she pass, it may only mean those who step to the line will have a chance.) But the concept is worthy of noting and giving a whirl. (I can be quite the whirly girl!) And I do recommend that those of you who are interested and aren't too explicit in your sites give it a try.

Of course, it could simply turn into a "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" situation in which no one actually makes any money too... Which isn't the worst thing ~ unless some expect that and those who don't end up offending others... Which of course the sort of thing you can run into with placing a simple link on your site... All of this just means that unless you and another actually agree to scratch each other's backs, don't expect it; you'll only get your feelings hurt.

I would imagine this type of tip jar is worthy of replication in the adult community. Naturally I wish these things would be inclusive, but the Internet is so fractured it makes sense it would be replicated and a version sent to the red-light side of the web.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Linux Geeks & Non-Geeks Like Me, Who Prefer Linux

For those of you, like myself, who prefer and use the Linux platform, check out Linux & Lip Gloss for neat tips & tools (and some girly fun too). I'll be adding it to the sidebar, just so I don't lose it.

Speaking of Linux, I know quite a number of you who read here use it... It it because you do everything I do? (I know, I know, sit down already, I'm making a fool of myself.) But seriously, the percentage of persons I know using Linux is much higher than the purported percentage of Internet users... What's up with that?

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Looking At Technology in 2007 & Beyond

In his year-end technology wrap-up, titled The Rising Tide of Technology, The Tongue discusses why we need to increase our website technology:
Clement of VideosZ.com has long been a proponent of the belief that surfers are no longer the cavemen you see doing Geico commercials. Recently he agreed to assist me with my research for this article by posting a simple, voluntary, nonscientific poll in the member’s area of his website. Members who had each purchased access to VideosZ were asked what kind of connection they were using to access the website so that VideosZ could better serve them. Each member was allowed to reply only once and each was a paying customer who had bought the VideoZ monthly service. Lying would have been counterproductive for any dialup member because it would mean he was advocating "less dialup friendly" content if he falsely claimed to have a broadband connection. The results may surprise you.

With more than 1,500 members responding, only ONE percent stated they were currently using a dialup connection. To put that in perspective, more than 4 percent stated they are already using a FIOS connection and the rest of the replies were fairly evenly split among DSL and cable modem users. Those kinds of statistics cannot be relied upon by themselves but they do support the idea that creating your next members area to be optimized for a surfer using a dialup connection is something worth reconsidering.
While I agree dial-up is, in general, being replaced, and that larger monitors and other tech toys are becoming part of the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality especially here in the US, I again caution against gizmos, gadgets and even website optimization which excludes potential customers.

As a person who uses Linux rather than Windows, and adores it, many of the latest gizmos, such as the latest Flash versions, do not (yet) work well with my browser (the wonderful Firefox) and as such, some 'marvelously modern' sites simply don't do anything for me but show a black screen with a demand that I upload the latest player (which invariably won't work for my pc).

My own platform preferences aside, I remind you to consider your target market when reading such advice to make such tech advances.

Consider, at least, that this information from a survey of members at VideosZ.com and as such is relating to those adult entertainment users who prefer to watch movies online. It makes sense that they would have such connections, and likely larger monitors etc., but for those who are selling DVDs, sex toys, professional services, erotic stories etc., or other adult products which are not to be viewed online, these numbers may be rather meaningless.

However, if you're peddling porn to view online, then this info may be most meaningful.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Tech & Graphic Tools Info

Karlyn's posted a list of the best free web and graphic design tools.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Oogle vs. Google

I don't think Google is horrible, but I do chafe over it's increasingly anti-adult stance. No AdSense for adult bloggers or advertisers seems silly for a tech giant which surely could arrange an algorithm to screen & match smutty product with smutty publisher. And now, as part of this 'kinder, gentler' Google, they've even blocked lingerie ads as being too racy. :sigh:

You sighing too? I thought so. Then y'all might enjoy this bit: Before Larry and Sergey named Google after a typo, Larry Page called his Stanford project BackRub.

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Help, I'm Following, But I Can't Comment!

In Why Are They Bloggering Everything Up?, Nicholas discusses the problems with comment posting.

Blogging platforms obviously want us to join their platform, even if only to post comments, because that means we are officially part of their community. LiveJournal, WordPress, Blogger, and of course the McNasty MySpace which won't even allow modification for sidebar links in their free blog (with tons of ads you help them sell), all want to count you as one of their minions millions of users. The registered user is a number, a number which they can leverage into monetary gain, and while that's just business, it's short-sighted. But that short-sightedness is sadly the current business & political view, where long-term and the future are things we need not worry about. :snort:

I fear a long rant a-comin'. I'll side step that for today (not so much for your sake, but due to time limits ~ but you're welcome to thank me anyway *wink*).

Anyway, back to Nicholas' post.

In it he mainly points out the flaws in this member-only-posting-privilege which grants the ease of including a URL/link, especially as it was recently orchestrated by Blogger. That little blurp was fixed, and now the 'other' which replaces 'anonymous' does allow for a URL. However, should you run into this problem with LiveJournal etc., there is one easy way around it all.

No, you need not join each community (unless it is McNasty MySpace or other places where you're forced to be a user to comment at all); all you need to do is include your URL in your comment itself.

When posting a comment at a blog which does not provide a place for your URL, paste it in as part of your comments. Many blogging platforms will convert it to html, thus making it a link, but if not, just make your own link. Or, if you think that's too darn pushy (and it may be if your link isn't relevant to the actual post/conversation), paste the URL at the end of your post, like a good-old-fashioned signature line.

Of course, all of this is assuming that you have something to add to the conversation in the first place. So don't 'make an ass of u and me' by spamming and then saying The Marketing Whore said to do so.

As for communities such as McNasty MySpace which force you to be member, you'll have to decide if the conversations there are worth your time in the first place. It's not just the extra login, the emails & messages, but the quality of the conversations, the potential of actually reaching your target market &/or consumers. Time is a resource, invest wisely.

However, as always, if there is a conversation you read but cannot participate in by leaving a comment, you can make your own blog post linking to that original conversation.

Most good (and powerful) bloggers not only check their own stats and so will see referrals , but they will search for news on their topics (and themselves too). This is so they can follow the continuing conversations, like yours.

The matter of referrals is made more difficult at McNasty sites like MySpace as they don't make it easy for the average user to get stats with refers; but let's just hope they know other tricks to find who is linking to them.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Stumbling About WIth Social Bookmarking Tools For Bloggers

Silent Porn Star (NWS) sent an email saying she had been getting a lot of recent traffic from StumbleUpon so she decided to add the group's bookmarking widget to her post.

However, StumbleUpon's info wasn't up to date for the new blogger format. She did some searching and found this post at Internet Mastery Center which was clear enough for her to follow, so she added not only StumbleUpon but several other social bookmarking tools & icons too.

Since this blog is not hosted by Blogger, I tried to modify the code to work here but it took lots of monkeying (plus you have to host each site's icon which can be a pain too). So I did some searching and found the free TheBookmarketer tool.

Not only free, but easy to install ~ at least for me. All I did was go into the template's html and post it after <$BlogItemBodyNot only free, but easy to install ~ at least for me. All I did was go into the template's html and post it after <$BlogItemBody$>.

I'm guessing that in new blogger, you would need to check "Expand Widget Templates" box in the html and post it after this paragraph of code:

I have no experience with WordPress admin areas & plugins (the latter being why I've never set up a WP blog), but I'm hoping that the previously mentioned info at Internet Mastery Center would be useful.

Related:

Problogger's post, Building Your Blog With StumbleUpon.

Social Networking Articles post, List of Social Bookmarking Buttons & Widgets for Your Web Sites & Blogs.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

All Things Equal? I Wonder...

The Internet has been touted as being the great equalizer; allowing the average man and small businesses to more readily (cheaply) access others. It was said that these smaller voices could carry as much weight as the big guys because the Internet (being 'virtually free') had leveled the playing ground.

But in the past few years, we've seen many sites gobbled up buy by the large corporations which would be their true competition in the first place, and buy by big media outlets which are already in bed with the corporate competition.

I ask you, how level is it now?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Giving Away The Store, Part One

Giving away the store isn't all bad; in fact, it's even a lucrative business model ~ if you don't get in your own way.

At Infomercantile, Derek (who, in the interest of full-disclosure, is a 'boss') writes about one of our local free newspapers and their idiotic 'upgrade':
In early September 2007, the FM Extra further obfuscated access to their newspaper by wrapping the already difficult-to-parse PDF file inside a Macromedia-format "Flashpaper" Flash viewer. While Google and other search engines do have the ability to provide some searchability within PDFs, enclosing the PDF within a Flash viewer completely eliminates the world's ability to find the FM Extra without already knowing it exists. It is as though the FM Extra put all of their hard-copy newprint papers in an unmarked cardboard box, shoved it under a parked car somewhere in Hawley, MN, and only gave directions to people who explicitly asked where the papers went. One would think that a newspaper that places its print-copies in as many publicly-available places as possible would easily translate the same concept to the internet, but it seems to have slipped their and their webdesigners' grasps.
Not only did they put all of the papers in the box, under a parked car, only giving directions to people who ask, but access also requires a secret password or knock of some sort. This new flash viewer requires the latest version of Macromedia Flash and has officially no viewer for those of us who are Linux based (I should note here that I can view it, but it also freezes my entire Firefox experience and is thus noted as to be avoided at all costs), making all of their free papers unavailable to us.

Unavailable is contrary to their business model where the newspapers are paid for by the advertisers, advertisers who have paid the rates for the large circulation, so why remove online circulation? The purpose of FM Extra is to literally give away their product, and so their decision not to do so on the web is bad marketing (if not just good old fashioned crazy).

Unavailable isn't the only problem. Being found is also a problem. I've mentioned this before, so I'll let Derek at Infomercantile say it:
Newspapers and web-designers alike fail to realize that a large portion of website traffic comes from people who never knew the website existed before and arrive by searching for a term. Those searchers, in theory, are highly-retainable readers if their search results succeed in finding what they're looking for. The FM Extra, by hiring a web designer, spent what appears to be a significant amount of money to reduce their potential audience even further. The FM Extra might be exactly what an online visitor is looking for, but a huge amount of effort has been devoted to making sure those readers never find the FM Extra online.
Using flash means you are non-existent for many.

It's pretty hard to give away the store when you can't even be found.

FM Extra assumes, in the way that makes an ass out of themselves, that folks are going to type in FM Extra ~ and goes further up their behinds to believe that the all the people that do arrive at their site are able to view the free goods via this new gift of the technology gods, Flashpaper.

Given that their target market is the senior shopper who looks for quaint local (happy) news and deals, it seems absurd to imagine they have any interest in downloading the latest version of flash. FM Extra also publishes Memories, and their pitch to advertisers is, "nobody does a better job at reaching those 40 and over than Memories Magazine." We're not exactly talking the gaming or tech-gadget crowd here, especially as these folks are, by their own admission, looking to the past, not the technological future: "Memories readers are extremely loyal, and they love to read about a past they can connect with."

Removing the ability for 100% of their content to be Googled (also seemingly incompatible with other search engine spidering etc.) is dumb enough. But to further aggravate their core audience means the advertisers aren't being served either. The advertisers have paid for placement in publications which are free and available for all, and here they go and remove these possibilities on the web. (If I had paid for any ads, I'd be livid.)

If your product is meant to be read/seen or otherwise given away for free ~ and this includes blogs and websites which exist to promote products which are paid for ~ do not put in place methods and technologies which remove the possibility.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

News & Views You Should Use

Chris Brown asks, "Am I the Only One Who Doesn't Like Flash?" ~ and no, Chris, you are not. *wink*

Amanda sent me this ages ago, and I'm just getting to posting it now: 11 Mistakes Your Blog Makes In Bed. (Super and cheeky fun to read ~ thanks Amanda!)

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Courting Your Customers

Gongol hosts this week's Carnival of the Capitalists. Naturally, the Top 10 Ways To Trash A Brand caught my eye...

Especially these points on money:
2. Constantly cutting the advertising budget. Very easy to do. And it doesn't mean that the advertising budget shouldn't be monitored and adjusted. But if it's routinely done, especially with the rationale of saving money without considering the costs, it might hurt the brand.

6. Relying on customer loyalty cards to create customer loyalty.
Don't. Loyalty cards don't create loyal customers. What you get instead are promiscuous customers. Why? Because loyalty cards offer incentives and discounts that attract customers who want a "deal". The best loyalty cards are the ones that offer benefits and value-added services that will only be enjoyed by the most profitable customers.

7. Spending more on price promotions than advertising.
Price promotions should be a part of any complete marketing program, but they can't replace traditional brand-building activities. Price promotions can be a dangerous game. Consumers attracted to your brand by a price promotion are just as likely to be lured away by a competitor's price promotion. What happens next week when the promotion is over and consumers are surprised to find that their beloved item now costs more? The "deal" doesn't seem like such a deal any more. As a result, you might be left with a bunch of people who feel ripped off. The trick is to find consumers who love your brand, ones who don't need be enticed to buy with promotions.
For those that worry that they have no/cannot afford Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, maybe you just don't need it:
10. Installing a CRM system and expecting that will do the trick. CRM aims to give businesses the means to provide preferred customers with "value propositions" that competitors can't match. From the consulting industry's point of view, there's the beauty of the system - it means more lucre for every management consultant in town flogging similar techniques to companies and their competitors. But the problem is that these systems are often installed without thinking of how the organization can use them to attract customers, and what internal behaviors the organization needs to change. Relationships cut both ways. The company might want a relationship with a high-spending customer; but is the customer looking for that sort of relationship? Subject an uninterested customer to new product offerings and telemarketing programs and things can get ugly. Even uglier when they get a letter from their bank telling them their credit card limit can be extended by $10,000 and another telling them their mortgage payments are still in arrears. A big part of the problem is that executives do not understood what they are implementing. They often just let software vendors dictate the terms of customer management or try to fit the strategy around the expensive technology. And what you have instead is a blunt instrument that stalks, rather than woos the customer.
And, perhaps my favorite:
4. Assuming you know what targeted customers value. A variation on the previous problem. So you know who your most profitable customers. But that's only half the story. Do you know what they value? What are the five most important attributes that see them coming back or referring other customers to you? Without the answers, all you have is a pile of data without insight.
Really, if you knew your customer, your CRM system wouldn't be a "blunt instrument that stalks, rather than woos the customer"; you wouldn't train customers to be price monkeys and sales hounds; rather you would court them as you both are.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Because They Agree With Me

Experts agree with me about Web Poo Point Doh. Well, they don't use my terminology, but Marc Andreesen says 'Web 2.0' is an Empty Buzzword. (I'm posting to Cadenhead rather than the source because I just like Cadenhead.)

Adult Blog Marketing has been updated, and I point it out as he's had darn near identical experiences to mine with both PenisBot and Technorati ~ though I was underwhelmed with Yahoo 360 due to the amount of time one must put in to mix & mingle (it's not where or how I want to spend my time). Definitely worth reading so you can weed out the time wasters.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Rankings, Smankings? (Part One)

I've never been a huge fan of Alexa, but as it was the only free resource, it was a name and a tool you needed to know about. So here's what I know ~ that I think you should know. *wink*

Alexa admits to problems:
The traffic data are based on the set of toolbars that use Alexa data, which may not be a representative sample of the global Internet population. Known biases include (but are likely not limited to) the following:

* Our users are disproportionately likely to visit sites that are featured on alexa.com such as amazon.com and archive.org, and traffic to these sites may be overcounted.
* The extent to which our sample may overcount or undercount users of the various browsers is unknown. Alexa's sample includes users of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Mozilla browsers. The AOL/Netscape and Opera browser is not supported, which means that sites operated by these companies may be undercounted.
* The extent to which our sample may overcount or undercount users of various operating systems is unknown. Alexa sample includes toolbars built for Windows, Macintosh and Linux.
* The rate of adoption of Alexa software in different parts of the world may vary widely due to advertising locality, language, and other geographic and cultural factors. For example, to some extent the prominence of Chinese sites among our top-ranked sites reflects known high rates of general Internet usage in China, but there may also be a disproportionate number of Chinese Alexa users.
* In some cases traffic data may also be adversely affected by our "site" definitions. With tens of millions of hosts on the Internet, our automated procedures for determining which hosts are serving the "same" content may be incorrect and/or out-of-date. Similarly, the determinations of domains and home pages may not always be accurate. When these determinations change (as they do periodically), there may be sudden artificial changes in the Alexa traffic rankings for some sites as a consequence.
* The Alexa Toolbar turns itself off on secure pages (https:). Sites with secure page views will be under-represented in the Alexa traffic data.

In addition to the biases above, the Alexa user base is only a sample of the Internet population, and sites with relatively low traffic will not be accurately ranked by Alexa due to the statistical limitations of the sample. Alexa's data come from a large sample of several million Alexa Toolbar users; however, this is not large enough to accurately determine the rankings of sites with fewer than roughly 1,000 total monthly visitors. Generally, Traffic Rankings of 100,000+ should be regarded as not reliable because the amount of data we receive is not statistically significant. Conversely, the more traffic a site receives (the closer it gets to the number 1 position), the more reliable its Traffic Ranking becomes.
(And one should note that just a few years ago, on the matter of software adoption, they said this: "The rate of adoption of Alexa software in different parts of the world may vary widely due to advertising locality, language, and other geographic and cultural factors. For example, Korean sites are prominent among our top-ranked sites, but it is unknown to what extent this reflects high rates of general Internet usage in Korea.")

I've got a friend who has had access to Nielsen//NetRatings from time to time, and she swears that once you get into the top 100,000 sites the numbers/rankings are virtually the same. She, and others, call the Top 100,000 The Big Boys.

But what does it all mean? How big is Big?

Alexa's blog explains:
Let's break it down by Alexa's Rankings, starting with the Top 500. Out of a total of 18 million sites to choose from, the Top 500 represent less than .003% of sites. But, as you would expect, these sites get a disproportionate amount of traffic. In fact they get 45% of all traffic. No, that's not a misprint. The odds that any Web surfer in the world is on a Top 500 site at any give time is about 50/50.

Moving down the rankings, if you take Alexa's Top 100,000 sites you'll find that almost 3 out every 4 clicks are spoken for. In other words, almost 75% of all the traffic on the web goes to the sites in the Top 100K list, leaving the remaining 18 million or so sites to fight over the scraps.

Like the distribution of wealth on the planet, the distribution of traffic on the Web is extremely lopsided. The Top 500 are champagne and caviar. Sites 501 - 100,000 are meat and potatoes. The rest are hungry.
These are the sites that Alexa swears it is accurate on.

But is that true?

Alexa, like most things SEO, can be manipulated. I remember back when Backwash.com was pushing for increasing the ranking at Alexa, we were all encouraged to download the toolbar to record our visits to Backwash. Our ranking increased, and miraculously, while the site is at any given moment broken or not even live (likely accounting for the huge decrease in traffic), the site still has a nice Alexa ranking. Why? Well, here I'm going to refer you to Wow My Alexa Ranking is Great! Should I Trust It?.

One thing often overlooked in the Alexa accuracy problem is the bias that's built into their toolbar. Francesco Mapelli says it clearly:
Alexa's stats are based on the data collected by the users that installed the Alexa Toolbar. Fine. But who's intrested in downloading the alexa toolbar? What does the alexa toolbar offers?

* a search field (present in IE and Firefox, and with real search engines)
* popup blocking (present in IE and Firefox)
* traffic report
* site owner info
* related sites ( competitors? )

as you can see, the main features here are useful for webmasters, bloggers, site owners, SEOers etc.

This is not stuff for the average surfer!
It's webmasters jockeying and researching using the Alexa toolbar; not average surfers.

As if this all weren't bad enough, check out We Bought An Alexa Ranking.

Any webmaster who checks their stats (and I don't mean you have to be religious about it like The Whore is) can quickly see if Alexa is at all accurate for their site. In my case, my sites must not swing Asian enough for it's really inaccurate.

So what can you use? Well, I'll get to that soon. I've got to study the info a bit more first.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Web Poo Point Doh (Part Deux)

Why join MySpace or Friendster or Ryze or Bebo or Tribe or Facebook? If these fish are all in one barrel, but they aren't there for you to shoot at them, why are they there?

Well, the theory is to find people you know and find others like you. This 'like you' point may be work related, like any other professional networking group; or it may be more social, where your family and friends congregate to share news etc.; or it could even be a mix of the two, say a burlesque community where fans and performers meet.

In the case of Flickr and YouTube, folks join for the free hosting and then connect to others via common interests; you meet me because we are both uploading sexploitation film clips, for example.

Now, blogs and Flickr have much in common. Even if you are not participating in the whole befriending and posting bulletins to your friends, you have the opportunity to use your account to broadcast your content (writings and photos). If your goal (or dream) is to make a living with your content (be a professional writer or photographer), you can achieve this by using your account or space as a portfolio. However...

Simply publishing your content doesn't mean it will be seen. Remember the early days of the Internet? Just because you build it, doesn't mean they will come. This was said about every website to point out that having a site didn't mean you were automatically going to be found. The same is true of your blog, Flickr account, MySpace page, etc. You have to market in order to make sure you are found.

Where Web Poo Point Doh makes things 'easier' is that there are far more tools built into these accounts. Where once a website had to worry about banner advertising, link swaps, using text and meta tags to feed spiders and jousting with algorithms, social networking gives you tools. Tools which allow for more immediate connections within the community, such as befriending, and tools which allow for connections outside the community, such as tags.

The ease of connection is nice; but remember, now you are competing with all the other fish in these ponds.

Of the millions who join, participation falls into three categories: Big adopters, low adopters, and quitters.

Big adopters usually make these sites more than daily logins. But more importantly than how often they are there is the matter of what they do there. They are active not only in posting in blogs, commenting, sending messages etc., but in be-friending. They seek out more friends ~ ones they know, one's they'd like to know and even those they don't care to know but who add to their self-image buy increasing the number on their lists.

This is not just done by teenagers, companies (or corporate shills), but by adults who want to feel popular. It's all about them, and they are here to be seen. Big friend counts are the 'it' factor, and their befriending of you is to add to their experience, their total; not yours.

But a funny thing happens on the way to big numbers ~ participation declines. It has to. One cannot make daily comments on the pages of others when your total is 2,500. (And if they do, they use a tool to spam such 'comments' or their other activities such as blog postings diminish. There are only so many hours in a day.)

Along with this decrease in active 'social connection,' there is a decrease in active reading. In other words they don't have time to read what everyone else is posting, even if they were so inclined as to make this not about themselves. So whether they have 10 friends or 1,000, they really only read the same number of posts. (This means the same number of pages ~ and advertisements. Maybe even less ads because now they are either immune to them or quickly moving past them to try to squeeze in one more blog post before bed.)

Low adopters are people who use the site but really only to keep up with people they really know (in real life or very good online buddies). These folks tend to be more 'sincere' in their use of the site as they don't go for some friend number (score) but focus on real relationships, i.e., they read as much as they post. They are invested in the connections they have and are not interested in friendship number counts. This means that these people not only don't seek 'friendships' but are less likely to accept 'befriending.' They are a close-knit group and their mistrust of interlopers as "selling something" is very high.

Then there are quitters (I admit, I've been one at a few sites). Dissatisfied with the hype, bored with the business of befriending, annoyed by spamming and legit advertising, feeling that since none of their friends are active there anymore it's just not worth the time, or some combination thereof, they just stop participating.

What it really comes down to is this: The big adopters are too busy to pay attention to you, the low adopters are interested in staying connected to those they know and aren't interested in meeting you, many members are inactive, and you are simply one of them, trying to be heard/seen.

To Be Continued...

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Web Poo Point Doh

As mentioned, humans are social beings and we love to connect. But as I've said, Web 2.0 (last time, I swear) for all its inflated headlines (and bottom lines) is nothing more than advances on things we already have. Messages are substitutes for email addresses, bulletin notices are group mailings, etc. Oh, just when I thought my rant was over...

I promised you some facts about social networking and I do plan to give them to you ~ but I'm still a bit frustrated over this whole matter of inflated importance and I feel that you all must understand some things before we get into the matters of working within such 'gold mines.'

What is all this stuff?

It's the creation of communities.

Each social networking site operates as a large group forum with smaller user created groups or forums. Even social bookmarking, video & image sharing, are really just connection points for groups to interact by means of posting comments, which is really a forum or message board system created around a subject matter. Forums have user profiles ~ being able to designate specific users as your friends is nifty for those who like to follow the pack or use the buddy system. (On the flip side, for lone wolves all this forced connection is rather annoying.) The bottom line is all this stuff is just another bunch of words for community.

Internet or digital communities are not only not new, they are not foreign concepts. Nor should they be the least bit unfamiliar. We all belong to communities, large and small. Where you work, your coworkers, your regular lunch spots ~ all are communities. Where you live, your church knitting group, your mommy and me group ~ these are all communities. Anytime you have groups of people regularly meeting or associating you have communities. In fact, wherever you have people gathered you have groups (which are not unlike communities except that the rules are more implied than stated rules of conduct). For example, going to the park with the kids on a Saturday is not a even organized or coordinated by all those who go to the park, but all agree to basic rules of behavior.

Why I'm being so damn obnoxious stating the obvious is because if this were really understood, people wouldn't be so damn confused about how to participate in social networking sites. Folks wouldn't be so inappropriate on message boards, booted off lists, or wonder why no one's clicking their posted link at 'such a popular site.'

If people knew the obvious, if they understood that online groups are no different than offline groups (as far as human expectations, tolerance and limits), they wouldn't be confused or make such a mess of things. And they do.

WalMarts are pretty busy places, especially on weekends. But you don't see anyone running in and yelling, "My DVD's are the greatest! You've got to come buy one from me!" Not even targeted attempts, bursting in to reach moms at Mommy and Me meetings or conservative women in their church groups, works this way. So why do online marketers do such things in online communities?

Well, for one, they keep seeing these communities as consumer laden gold mines. But they keep forgetting these fish may all be in one barrel, but they aren't there for you to shoot at them.

To Be Continued...

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Don't Make Me Talk About Web 2.0

First of all, I hate this "Web 2.0" frenzy. I hate it so much, that I wasn't even thrilled for being recognized as not blogging about it. But a few of you have asked about it and like it or not, it's 'news' so I'll get off my high horse and talk about it. (Rant is more like it.) And after I do this rant, I'll continue to talk about the so-called parts of Web 2.0, but I'll pretty much be banishing the phrase "Web 2.0".

Why do I hate it? Because it's based on a love of technology, not based on people.

I say this because social networking isn't really anything new. People have been contacting each other, sharing links and photos and doing all the same things before on the Internet via email, forums, news groups, websites etc.

This Web 2.0 hoopla is just a new way of doing the same old thing, which isn't bad ~ but so many rave about the marvels of it all when this technology for the most part hasn't taken into account human need and therefore misses the mark. It's provided us a new tool which may improve the way thing are done, but this bit of ease doesn't seem to be worth all the chatter. I say this because no one has really been able to monetize "Web 2.0" ~ and if you can't sell the tool, how much does the market need or want it?

From the point of the human consumer, the lack of interest in buying the tool speaks to the lack of fundamental understanding of the market it's supposed to serve.

(I know I may sound like I'm backtracking on my love of blogging, but I'm not. Blogging is one tool which offers something new ~ the ability to publish and converse in real time ~ and this is a case of a tool being useable. It's monetary value is still undecided. But we can prove blogging has value in that many folks pay for such things as the actual software and hosting, as well as the dollars spent in advertising. However, remarkable as blogging is, I do not consider blogging to be part of this "Web 2.0" talk. Blogs are, as I've said before, really a variation on website publishing, and as it lacks the embedded functionality of Web 2.0's biggest baby, Social Networking, I'm removing it from this conversation.)

Now I'd like to focus on Web 2.0's number one baby, Social Networking.

Many of you will point to this tool's profitability to say that is has value. I will in return point to the fact that there have only been two ways to monetize such sites: paid advertising and the sales of such sites.

The first is nothing new ~ paid spots on websites have been around for a long time and their merits/effectiveness are another conversation alltogether. For now, let's just say that applying the old advertisement to the new technology isn't a vote for the technology but just more realestate for advertising.

The second, sales of social networking sites, have proven to be for large sums of money. But if I were on the board of directors for a company who proposed to buy such a site I would ask, "Why should we buy this? What purpose does it serve?"

If the response is that "we'd get millions of eyeballs" I'd say there are two problems with that reply.

One, unless we are in the real estate or advertising sales business we should pass. For with such a purchase what we are in effect doing is buying the land the billboards are on and nothing more.

Two, let's scrutinize those "millions of eyeballs."

How many of these members are active? We hear the number of members bandied about, but we all know that not all members are active members. I myself have joined and then stopped playing there when I got bored (more on that in a moment). I'm still one of the masses, included in the count, but neither my body mass nor my eyeballs appear there any more.

Of those still active, how many are looking at and/or clicking on the ads? (I say 'and/or' because when it comes to the value of advertising many argue that being seen is as much the point as are the clicks. A whole other debate.) While we may not consider The Whore to be typical (subject to debate, I know) we can at least be assured that she is human and I will tell you that she is part of the skeptical, cynical consumer crowd. I don't like to be bombarded with ads and do not wait for them to load. I am the first to click on the 'skip this ad' option, and once familiar with where the ads are posted, I avoid looking there. All of these behaviors are easy to do and I daresay being done by "the millions of eyeballs."

So, if on the board of directors being presented with such a million dollar opportunity, I'd pass.

If the person(s) suggesting a buy-out of a social network had other ideas for such a purchase, I'd listen. But so far there are only two ways to make money off these sites, advertising and the sales of the site itself. You may think they are grand ways to make money, but keep in mind that members will not pay for memberships to these sites. So why buy one? What's the point of them as real entities?

But I know you all want to know about how to use them. You want to get the most of these millions of eyeballs looking at you. I'll go on and on about that next time. But remember, I won't be calling it Web 2.0.

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