Web Properties & The Martha Stewart Factor

Around the time Martha went public there were concerns about the Martha Stewart Living brand being able to hold up if there were ‘No Martha’. What happens to investors when Martha dies? Retires? Or if she’s dragged down in public opinion (this was “Before Scandal”). It was questioned whether the brand was so tied to Martha as a person, would it still be able to produce and hold onto the market share it enjoyed?

It was a big hurdle for her to overcome and convince investors that yup, the brand she built was golden. She did it and was a smash on Wall Street when Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public (love ya Martha!).

Fast forward in time: Stock plummeted when Martha’s scandal hit and she went to jail. Although it hasn’t fully recovered, and is quite a bit lower in value than it was, I think MSO stock has proven it can endure regardless of Martha being in the picture or not. Martha did indeed build a ‘real brand’, but it definitely was tied to her as a person as well. It was an interesting lesson to observe.

Here’s how the above relates to you: How about your domains? Your blog? Your list? Are they tied too closely to YOU? Is the brand YOU? When the ‘persona’ you worked so hard to establish moves on, would the brand or domain you dropped sweat over still hold value, or be as valuable? Will the traffic likely move on when you do? Or would the traffic stay regardless of who ran the show?

Have you asked yourself: What happens in 5 years? Are you planning on blogging consistently as you are until the day you die? What happens if disaster strikes and you need to sell now to raise money? Are you building for ‘saleability’, just in case?

Aside from a personal blog, SuperAff is the one and only blog that’s tied to me (personality). I’m here to build and develop properties into something of real value, properties that will be worth something. I’m not here to build ME.

  • Will your web property traffic shrink or grow or stay the same if you sold it?
  • Is your web property worth less if you’re not attached to it?

If you realize your persona is tied too closely to a domain, you could temper that and ease out gradually over time with guest or paid staff contributions. Withdraw into more of an ‘editor’ position, but that takes a lot of time to mold and there are no guarantees the visitors will buy it and stick. Especially if they smell something in the works. Sometimes you ARE the brand and nothing else will do.

Bottom Line: You can’t go wrong creating and developing a property that’s good to go for the next 5, 10, 15 years. With or without you.

Cutting Through The Paid Link Hysteria

Is it ok with Google if you sell paid links on your blog? Yes

As long as we’re talking about links, this seems like a pretty good opportunity to talk about a simple litmus test for paid links and how to tell if a paid link violates search engines’ quality guidelines. If you want to sell a link, you should at least provide machine-readable disclosure for paid links by making your link in a way that doesn’t affect search engines. There’s a ton of ways to do that. For example, you could make a paid link go through a redirect where the redirect url is robot’ed out using robots.txt. You could also use the rel=nofollow attribute. I’ve said as much many times before, but I wanted to give a heads-up because Google is going to be looking at paid links more closely in the future.

The other best practice I’d advise is to provide human readable disclosure that a link/review/article is paid. You could put a badge on your site to disclose that some links, posts, or reviews are paid, but including the disclosure on a per-post level would better. Even something as simple as “This is a paid review” fulfills the human-readable aspect of disclosing a paid article.

And then:

To make sure that you’re in good shape, go with both human-readable disclosure and machine-readable disclosure, using any of the methods I mentioned above.

Google isn’t saying you can’t sell advertising on your site.
Google isn’t saying you will be banned for paid reviews or paid text links.

What you will be given grief over: Subversive paid links.

Matt gives a few different examples on how to mark your paid links:

Ash, there’s absolutely no problem with selling links for traffic (as opposed to PageRank). At http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/hidden-links/ I mention a couple ways to sell links that Google would have no problem with.

Aaron Nimocks, I believe AdBrite constructs their links with JavaScript so that links are being sold for traffic, not to affect search engines. Things like JavaScript, the nofollow attribute (or meta tag), or doing a link through a redirect that is robots.txt’ed out would be techniques to sell links for visitors/traffic, as opposed to trying to influence search engine rankings.

So selling paid links on your blog is totally cool, ok? Keep on keeping on. Just make sure to fix the link up like Matt suggests and you’re fine.

Where Things Get Tricky

It’s hard to say at this point who is going to be penalized for the unmarked paid links. Will it be the advertisers that buy links or will it be the websites that display unmarked paid links? Personally, I think it’s going to be bloggers and webmasters who display unmarked paid links that will be hit by Google.

Will those sites be removed or banned from the Google index? I doubt it. What I think will happen though is that your site will be dead and worthless for passing any link juice to outbound links. So if your site makes its money on selling links, there won’t be any market for you once Google flips the switch off for your site.

If that doesn’t bother you, go ahead and do what you like. However, you need to realize that dead juice sites won’t have the same market value as the rest of the Google law abiding net. This will be a problem if you build up a site to flip, there’s potentially less resale value to it.

Moral of the Story

It’s up to you to protect your investment. Your website, your domain, is like a piece of real estate on the web. You either invest in it to build up value over time, or you ride it for everything it’s worth while you can, then dump it.

There will be plenty of ad brokers and review sites that will have plenty of link buyers to send your way. They won’t be penalized, they have nothing to lose. YOUR site will be marked, not theirs. Be aware.

Summary

– Yes you can sell paid links
– If you don’t mask them or mark them, be prepared to lose

If You Don’t Like It

Too bad. Google’s the boss now. Quit feeding the beast (adsense/adwords). If you’ve followed SuperAff for any length of time at all–you know I’m not a Google fan…saving my breath now, back to work I go…

Google The New Jabba?

PSA: Linking To Another Blog Is Not Going To Kill You

A funny thing happened on my way to figuring out who to work with and who not to . . .

A month or so after dumping all the bloggers that happily gobbled up all the inbounds and comments I sent their way for a couple months…I get an email from one of the BFFs:

(summarized)

Hi, remember me from Blog Whatevia (not real)! I noticed you linked to So-and-So’s blog about this that and the other, I wanted to let you know I also have three blog posts here (links to all three) that discusses that very thing! I’d be so happy if you’d link to them too!

Filtered. Trash Bin.

Two things to note:

1. Even though I previously spent time adding comments on her blog and linking to her, that was the one and only time she ever sent me an email or made it known in any way, shape or form that she knew my blog existed (no comments, no links, no nothin).

2. At this time my blog was enjoying some crazy attention that I’m sure she was aware of. Yes, the attention was that crazy.

One thing she could have done for a more successful outcome:

Write a new post on her blog linking to my blog post and then including links to her three applicable posts.

She would have accomplished something pretty interesting I think:

1. She would have shown me that she’s capable of a two way blogging relationship that would be beneficial to both of us;

2. She would have probably seen her links added to my initial post as an update and shared in the attention my blog was riding. Or a new blog post just for her blog in the near future.

Don’t want to link out? Good Luck With That.

Most refuse to feed a Bucket Blogger (or a network of Bucket Bloggers) forever.

I’ll be MIA on SuperAff again for awhile now, thinks are tick-ticking along full steam ahead elsewhere in a few different areas and that’s where my focus has to be. Maybe I’ll bump into you “out there” on an upcoming round of “Link Outreach” for my next blog’s traffic building push ;).

I’m Just Not That Into You

Blog Swag Approach: Hi, I’m following your blog and I just love it! I think your readers would be very interested in my product BlahBlahBlah, here’s a link to the website for more information. I’d be happy to send you a free sample if you’d like.

Me: Hey alright, I can dig freebies!! But I checked out the website and see that the freebies are offered and available to anyone who fills in a form. And the sample is single use. So sheeeyeah, although you’re right and my blog readers probably would be interested in your product (along with a kajillion other products)–I’m going to blog about your commercial product because, because, why again? :roll:.

Link Exchange Approach #1: Hi I’m Spectacular Person and I’d like to introduce you to my Spectacular Website. I notice your blog ranks for keywords “super spectacular” and that’s just what I’m trying to rank for! Would you link to my Spectacular Blog, and when you do I’ll add your site to my sidebar?

Me: Beat it.

Link Exchange Approach #2: Hi there, I love your blog about office furniture! My blog is about fuzzy bunnies and I’d love to exchange links with you! If you add a link to me, I’ll add a link to you!!!! Here, look at me, I’m even dropping links in your blog comments because I’m so motivated to working something out with you!

Me: Where’s my delete button.

Product Promo Request: Love your blog! I wrote an ebook about Spectacular People, and I noticed that your blog is highly targeted for the same audience as my ebook. I offer an affiliate program paying 50% commissions to affiliates. If you’re interested in promoting my ebook, here’s my affiliate signup page.

Me: You’re right, I do have a crowd of perfectly targeted readers for your product…but…how do I know your ebook is any good? I’d have to buy it first and I wasn’t planning on it. Move along pal. Next.

And then…ever so occasionally…you do happen to get a winner:

Permission to Publish: Hello, I read your blog post “Super Spectacular People” and I’d like to include it in a book I’m writing titled “Spectacular Things”. Please advise what your stipulations would be to use the information and your fee scale. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Me: OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME–I’M BEING PUBLISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Capturing The Attention Of The Masses

You don’t have to be Puff Daddy or Britney Spears or Paris Hilton to get massive amounts of consumer attention, check out this commercial. I laughed til I cried. But I’m tellin ya, I love this dude–and the net’s spreading the word like it’s on fire. This commercial has hit more eyeballs than the Superbowl ones, or will soon I’m sure!

Growing up I’ll never forget this corny tv commercial we’d always see on cable (pulled from the states) for a car sales lot down south (I’m in Canada). North Dakota I think was the location. Anyhow. The CHEESIEST commercials you ever did see. The car lot owner was wearing tights and superman costumes and fake fly through the air with his cape flowing and all that jazz.

Years later as an adult I came across mentions of him in an article (or maybe a book) on sales and marketing. That cheesy car salesman made serious coin and a big wack of car sales due to those commercials ;).

BTW, the dude above and his ‘mini-mall’ hit the Ellen DeGeneres show a few months ago.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the scoop, they’ve got their own mad skillz goin on over there!

I Feel Like Such A Big Fat Fool

  • Spending how many years trying to manipulate and rustle up inbounds
  • Wasting so much time trying to get sites to rank, both thin and not so thin
  • Spending hours and hours scouring SEO forums and blogs trying to uncover that ‘clue’, that ‘secret’

Well here’s the big secret people: If you don’t have any good, aged, developed & well trafficked domains in your pocket to work with, or friends with same…you have to develop something that people want, that they respond to, and have one good link come in. If your site has the goods, the rest takes care of itself.

For many of the pros, they do have the first part of the answer to work with. For the rest of us, it’s that ‘one good link’ thing that trips most of us up isn’t it. The trick to figure out and learn is how to attract the right attention for that ‘one good link’.

But ultimately, that one link can only carry your site so far. Your blog/website really will have to have legs to it for growth and momentum to stick. Enough value of some kind to enough people, or you will be perpetually working at pushing traffic to it, rather than traffic developing and pushing itself.

So far for me, this has evolved into this naturally up to Feb 5th inclusive:

Stats Feb 5th 2007 incl

Feb 1st – 5th inclu (2007)

search stats feb 5th inclusive

I realize those numbers look like a majority of one-hit visitors, but I can assure you a good number are sticking.

Inbounds are developing without my hand behind it. I swear this is a disciplined test for myself, to see if a new ‘un-networked blogger’ could tap into something naturally. No bookmarking/social site tag teaming going on, no favors called in, no paid ads, no blog traffic exchanges, no souls sold, no golden idol bellies rubbed.

The traffic is being pushed to me, rather than me pushing traffic from behind. For me this is brand new. I’ve never seen anything like it for a domain that’s months old.

The social activity is blowing my freakin mind, yet it’s not just from one site or any one thing. It’s not been dugg, the traffic is spread all over. And Goog is just a blip on the radar atm.

A good read on my mind:

The Links That Can’t Be Baited

I’m still working on building some kind of ‘blog relationships’ with other bloggers, and I’m not very successful so far (with who I’ve targeted and am reaching out to). I find that curious, but I’ll provide more details when I have some better idea why and why not.